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Gardening FAQ

Gardening FAQ

Click on a question and we will take you directly to the answer or scroll
through the page and learn all you want about planting and caring for bulbs!

If you have a question, send us an email to faq@marysgardenpatch.com

  • What is a bulb?

A bulb is a "container" with a flower (sometimes more than one) hidden in the center.  The food in that "container" will provide the energy needed for healthy flowers at blooming time.

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  • How to handle and store bulbs?

Just because the bulbs look dormant when you receive them does not mean that they do not need tender loving care.  Bulbs are constantly growing and developing and have sensitive flowers inside.  Careless handling can mean problems and poor results at blooming time.  Some tips:

  • Do not leave bulbs in the package in which they arrive.  Take them out of the shipping carton and store the packages in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant them.
  • Plant the bulbs at the very first opportunity you have.  You will get the best results this way as they are usually shipped at the appropriate planting time.

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  • How to plant bulbs?

a.  How to plant?   

  • Dig out the soil to the proper depth as indicated on the package.
  • Loosen the soil and mix in some peat moss or compost.  Add some sand when the soil has a lot of clay.
  • Sprinkle some fertilizer and mix well into the soil.
  • Place the bulbs firmly in the soil with the pointed end up.  Always plant in groups, either large or small, and keep the spacing as indicated on the package.
  • Cover the bulbs with the balance of the soil, sprinkle some more fertilizer on top and water well.  If, during winter, it is dry for a long period, water them occasionally.
  • Cover the soil with some mulch and fertilize again in the Spring when the shoots emerge.

b.  Flowering times & Height?
This is indicated on the package as well as the height so you can plant the low growing varieties in front and the taller ones in the back of the garden.
  c.  When to plant?
        For Fall planting:

  • Zone 3 to 6 should be planted in September and October.  Planting can still be done in November as long as it is before the frost penetrates the soil too much.
  • Zone 7 to 10 should be planted in October, November and December.

        For Spring planting, you can plant bulbs as soon as the danger of frost has passed.
  d.  Can you tell from the bulb how large the flower will be?
        Usually, large bulbs give tall, large flowers while small bulbs give short, small flowers.

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  • Can bulbs be planted in an outdoor container?

Yes, this can be done.  Keep them in a cool, dark place during winter in areas of the country that get really cold.  In milder climates, you can leave the container with the planted bulbs outside.

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  • Can you plant bulbs in beds with ground covers? 

Yes, the roots of the bulbs go much deeper so they do not fight for the same food supply as the ground cover.  The ground cover will assist in hiding the faded leaves after blooming.

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  • How do you get a naturalized landscape?

Toss a handful of pebbles in the area you want to landscape.  Plant a bulb where each pebble lands.  Be sure to plant several small bulbs close together.  Plant several large bulbs next to trees or rocks.

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  • What kind of soil is good for bulbs?

Bulbs will grow in any kind of soil as long as there is good drainage.

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  • What is the best way to prepare a planting bed?

For a large bed, dig out about 10 inches deep.  Fill in the first few inches with sand and peat moss for good drainage.  Work in some fertilizer as well.  Finally, lay the bulbs down in a pattern you like, fill in with the original soil and water well.  If you do not want to dig out the entire bed, only dig out the space where you want to plant some bulbs.  There are special tools available (like a bulb auger) to help with this process or use your garden trowel.

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  • Is it better to dig a hole for each bulb or an entire bed?

It depends completely on the effect you want.  If the individual hole is deep enough, either method is fine.

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  • Should fertilizer be added in the Fall or in the Spring?

If you want to have more benefit from the bulbs for several years, you need to apply fertilizer three times a year:

  • At planting time
  • When the shoots appear above the ground
  • Right after they have bloomed

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  • How can drainage be improved?

A good way to improve your soil is to work in sand, compost and peat moss.

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  • How many bulbs should you plant together?

A minimum of 5 Tulips or Narcissus and at least 10 of the smaller bulbs should be planted together.  You can, of course, always plant more than that together.  Just keep your spacing in mind as well.

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  • Do you have to water bulbs after you plant them?

Yes, this is the most important thing to do to ensure good blooms.  Bulbs start to form roots right after planting and water is very important to get them started.  Also, water the bulbs when it has been dry for a long period of time.

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  • Do bulbs have to be mulched?

It is best to have some mulch covering the bulbs.  In areas where winters are severe, mulch helps protect the bulbs from frost.  In warm areas, mulch helps keep the ground at a more even temperature.

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  • Do bulbs bloom for more than one year?

Some bulbs will become so "at home" in your garden that they will become naturalized citizens.  Others will last for several years if you take some basic steps like cutting the flowers after blooming, leaving the foliage to die down naturally and giving fertilizer three times per year.  In the South you will need to plant bulbs that are specifically recommended for growing there.  See Bulbs for the South and our information page Growing Daffodils in the South.

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  • Who can I contact for more information about growing bulbs or what bulbs are suitable for my area? Contact Mary at mary@marysgardenpatch.com.

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