The Miracle of Bulbs

Just a quick reminder that it's not too late to get those fall bulbs in the ground for that first glorious burst of color in late winter-early spring. Bulbs are a most fascinating perennial, a total unit of a self-contained plant that regenerates year after year with minimal proper care.

A wide variety of bulbs, corms, and tubers will do well in our high desert: hyacinths, daffodils, ranunculus, iris, paperwhite narcissus, crocus, alliums, and more.

Your soil should drain well, but also be able to maintain moisture. Dig the holes about three times as deep as the bulb's greatest diameter. Place one teaspoon to one tablespoon (depending on the size of the bulb) of bone meal or bulb food (high phosphorous for root and flower development) in the bottom of the hole. Cover this with a layer of dirt and then plant the bulb. Once bulbs are placed and covered with dirt, soak the area thoroughly. With occasional winter rain, this should be enough moisture. But, if our air stays dry and the winter is without rain, soak the area periodically throughout the winter and into the blooming season.

After the bulbs bloom, spent flowers may be cut off, but DO NOT cut the leaves. This foliage is manufacturing food and sending it back to the bulb for storage for next year's growth! This period after the blooms fade is also a crucial time when you can add bulb food (high in phosphorous and potassium) to the ground around your bulbs for next year's performance.

An established bulb bed which has given multiple performances may benefit from a nitrogen fertilizer application at the beginning of the growing season.

Don't forget-bulbs are also great in containers and do well with occasional soil regeneration and regular fertilization. Container gardening allows you to showcase your bulbs as they bloom and then remove them when the bloom is completed. Just remember-bulbs need a winter chill, so the containers need to be placed outside for the winter in a cold, shady place and covered to maintain coolness and moisture.

So, hurry and get your spring flowering bulbs into the ground and watch what happens in a month or two! With just a bit of care you can enjoy their performances for years.

Jan Groth
December, 1994