Spring Bulbs

Posted: October 22, 2012

Gardening has its good and not-so-good parts. It is a healthy hobby, but intense at times...

Whether it is a vegetable, annual, or perennial, nothing is as rewarding as seeing the home landscape in full maturity. However, it takes a lot of work, trial, and error to achieve results. One benefit of gardening is it teaches us patience. Good things come to those who wait. As we are getting ready to put our gardens to bed for winter, we also need to think of next year at the same time, but we will be rewarded in time.

Think about spring color now, how nice it would be to see bright colors emerging as the rest of the garden still slumbers. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, can greet us warmly, but we have to do the work now. Spring-flowering bulbs are unparalleled in terms of choices for plant material, kinds of blooms and colors, and a varied bloom time. There is some time left to do this, and you can find some really good deals at your local garden center now.

Some things to consider:

Most bulbs need well drained soil. If the area tends to have standing water after a spring thaw, then look for another location. It is generally recommended not to plant under trees. Bulbs require five to six hours of full sun at a minimum, and eight to ten for the best flowers. Clusters, or larger groupings, have the most eye appeal so make sure you have plenty of room for a big display. Avoid planting in a lawn or location that might be damaged from lawn care. Their foliage needs as much sun as possible, so if they are cut down before dieback, it may affect the bulb quality. Spring bulbs do best if they are left in the same location year after year, so pick a site with that in mind. Preparation is key to success for spring bulbs. Loosen the soil to a depth of about twelve inches. Add composted organic material to the top eight inches. If you haven’t had a soil test done, then choose a low nitrogen formula. There are many tailored just for spring bulbs.


“Bulb” is a general term used to describe a host of plants. True bulbs include tulips, lilies, and daffodils. Crocus start as corms. Bearded iris and lily of the valley have tubers, which are thick underground stems. Whichever you choose, tulips and daffodils have a wide variety of colors, and bloom types. They offer the greatest range of bloom times as well. Crocus give you the earliest color. Hyacinths have a sweet fragrance outside. Consider mixing and staggering your plantings to give you continuous color from March through May. Spring bulbs, with very little care, will come back each year, fuller with better color.

The Penn State master gardeners in Lackawanna County have the free publication “Hardy Bulbs in Pennsylvania.” For a copy, please contact us 570-963-6842 or email LackawannaMG

Steve Ward
Master Gardener Coordinator
Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County