Who doesn’t enjoy the site of spring flowers, after a long winter? As winter turns to spring and snow just begins to melt, the first spring bulbs begin to emerge.
This period of time gives me hope, as I dream of more flowers to come, from crocuses and snowdrops, to hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. Every year, I strive to add more of these garden delights to my perennial beds, however, space may be an issue.
If you’re short on garden space, but would like to plant a range of spring bulbs, that flower from early to late spring, or would like to create a continuous bloom from one planting area, why not plant your bulbs in layers?
The technique is simple and saves a lot of time and it only requires one planting hole!
Here’s how to do it:
- Select the bulbs you would like to plant, be it crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. Each genus blooms at a different time in the season, from early spring to late spring. Crocuses bloom first, while tulips may bloom after daffodils, or their bloom period may overlap.
- Assess where you would like to plant your bulbs, then decide what you would like to plant.
- First select the larger bulbs, like tulips and daffodils. These bulbs require more space to develop, so if your area is tight, select 5 to 10 of the larger bulbs. If you have ample room, consider a larger number.
- After deciding on the number of larger bulbs, choose the number of smaller bulbs, to plant in the space. Some of the very early spring bulbs may be Glory of the Snow, Muscari, Snowdrops and Siberian Squill. These may be planted closer together, allowing for a larger number in the space.
- After all the bulbs are decided upon, dig a hole approximately three times the height of the largest bulbs. If tulips are the largest bulbs, did an 8-inch hole and amend it with compost or fertilizer or both, then plant your tulips at the bottom. If daffodils are the largest, plant them at the bottom of the hole.
- Arrange the largest bulbs over the soil, pointy-side up. Normally tulips and daffodils require a 6-inch spacing, however they may be planted closer together for this technique.
- Cover the hole with a thin layer of soil and arrange the next large-sized bulbs. Be sure to plant them in an alternate pattern, over the bottom layer.
- Cover the hole with another layer of soil, deep enough for the next-sized bulbs, like hyacinths, which require a 4-inch planting depth. Arrange the bulbs in this space.
- Next fill the hole with another layer of soil and plant the smallest spring bulbs, like crocuses, muscari and snowdrops. Arrange the bulbs within that hole and backfill the remainder of the soil, until level. Be sure to push the soil down with your hands or the flat end of a garden rake, in order to have good bulb-to-soil, contact.
When measuring soil depth, the distance is from the bottom of the bulb to the top of the hole, not from the top of the bulb to the soil line.
Towards the end of winter, you will begin to see the earliest of the spring bulbs emerge from that planting space. As the earliest spring bulbs die back, rather than seeing a barren space, the next earliest bulbs will emerge, like the hyacinths. As these bulbs finish blooming and die back, the next flowers will emerge, like the daffodils. Finally as these dieback, the tulips will emerge and carry you through until the start of summer. During the entire bloom period, some flowers may have overlapping blooms, as one genus completes its bloom cycle and the next begins. The effect is a beautiful show of various spring flowers!
Once your first set of flowers dies back, try to avoid removing any of the dying foliage. Allow the foliage to turn brown and die down, on it’s own. It’s vital that the foliage is given this opportunity, as it collects nutrients from the sun, that feeds the bulbs for next year’s blooms. The spent flower stem, on the other hand, may be removed. Once the foliage has turned brown, it may then be removed, or left in place as mulch.
This method has a plus-side! By planting many layers of bulbs overtop of the tulip bulbs, their smell will be masked from curious squirrels. Since tulips will be buried deeply beneath the rest of the bulbs, squirrels won’t be able to locate them. The other spring bulbs are not as attractive to them.
This technique may also be used for a large pot. Follow the same steps, by layering the larger and later flowering bulbs at the bottom, mid-spring flowering bulbs in the middle layers and earliest and smallest bulbs at the top. Place this pot as a focal point in your garden, or on a sunny deck, balcony, patio or front porch.
Now there’s no reason, not to add more spring bulbs to your garden!