I’ve never understood the logic of the terms spring and fall bulbs. It’s as if the experts decided to name them as they did to confuse people like me who tend to think in terms of blooming. You see, fall bulbs bloom in spring, while spring bulbs bloom in the fall. I suppose it makes sense if you look at it from the perspective of planting, but I’m still not convinced the name choice was the wisest decision.
Then, of course, there is the confusion over the difference between bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers – all of which are often referred to as bulbs. For our purpose today, let’s just agree to call them all bulbs, so we can get on with the business of caring fr spring blooming bulbs.
Spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and crocus emerge in spring as soon as the soil has thawed. Remove winter mulch as soon as the first shoots appear to allow them room to grow. Use care not to injure young shoots as you remove the mulch.
I seldom need to water my spring-blooming bulbs, as the soil is typically wet enough in spring in my area. If your garden area is dry, water thoroughly in the spring to moisten the soil to the level of the bulbs and keep the soil moist until blooming is complete.
Once your bulbs begin to bloom it is the ideal time for applying fertilizer. Apply 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of two pounds per 100 square feet. Work the fertilizer into the top few inches of soil, using care not to contact either the bulbs of new foliage. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer, as this will cause lush green foliage with reduced blooms.
Removing dead or faded blooms keeps your flowerbed looking good and prevents plants from expending unnecessary energy on old blooms. Clip the stem of the flower at its base and discard it.
Allow foliage to yellow and die back naturally. Even though blooming is complete, the plant still needs foliage to produce energy. The energy produced after blooming is used to bulb strong bulbs to support next year’s blooms. Cutting foliage back prematurely may prevent next year’s blooms or kill the bulb.
Mulch your bulbs in the fall with a three to four-inch layer of organic mulch to protect them from the effects of freezing and thawing during cold winter months.
Repeating this cycle of yearly care keeps your bulbs blooming for years. If they become overcrowded, or blooms are reduced, lift and divide the bulbs in late fall. Replant in a location similar to the original.