There is a whole range of summer bulbs that grace our gardens. Some are winter hardy and are grown as perennials, while others are tender and must be lifted and stored for the winter months.
Bulbs in Arkansas
- Spring blooming bulbs are one of the easiest ways to add color to the landscape with the least amount of effort.
- Fall is the ideal time to plant.
- Bulbs are usually sold in their dormant or dry state.
- When planting your bulbs, you can dig individual holes for each bulb (which can be difficult in our rocky soils) or mass plant.
What is a bulb?
By definition, a true bulb is a modified leaf bud, consisting of a basal plate, short thick stem and fleshy scales. The bulb contains all plant parts and serves as a storage organ.
While not all spring blooming bulbs are true bulbs, most underground storage organs, including rhizomes, corms, tubers and pips are collectively called “bulbs”. If you plant it in a dried, bulbous state, and wait for the leaves and flowers to appear, we can give it the name “bulb”.
When purchasing bulbs, keep in mind that the bulb you buy at the nursery already contains everything that the bulb needs to flower for that season— leaves, roots, stems and flowers.
When choosing bulbs look for large bulbs, which are firm and blemish free. The size of the bulb determines the size of the flower next spring. Bargain bulbs may not end up being quite such a bargain if they are too small.
Whether or not your bulbs bloom the next year will be determined by which bulbs you are growing and the care they get during the period immediately after bloom. Once its seasonal cycle is complete and the foliage dies back, everything is set for the following season.
The Life Cycle of a Bulb
Bulbs are usually sold in their dormant or dry state. When planted, they being to initiate roots, and the stems inside the bulbs begin to grow. The plants utilize their stored food reserves, and the shoots begin to emerge. When they begin flowering, the storage organ or bulb, is empty of food. After bloom, they need to replenish the storage organ for the upcoming dormancy.
Spring blooming bulbs need to go through a chilling process in order to reach their full potential. Typically a minimum of 12-16 weeks of temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit are required for the bulbs to stretch and elongate a stem and leaves. Without natural chilling outdoors or forced chilling in the refrigerator, the bulbs rarely exceed a couple of inches in height and shatter their blooms.
How to Plant Bulbs
When planting your bulbs, you can dig individual holes for each bulb (which can be difficult in our rocky soils) or mass plant. It is often easier to dig up a larger planting area, scatter your bulbs in, and then fill the soil back in.
A general rule of planting depth is to plant two to three times the size of the bulb, deep in the ground. Small bulbs are planted shallow, while big bulbs need a deeper hole. You can layer different bulbs in the same planting area. Choose a site with good drainage–especially in the winter. Standing water and bulbs is not a good combination.
When planting bulbs, grouping them together in clusters will make a stronger impact than a single row of bulbs. A mass planting will make a huge impact in the spring, and they can easily be planted under your winter annual plantings of pansies, violas and dianthus. The bulbs will come up around them and add to the seasonal color display.
Bulbs are an important part to a spring garden. To enjoy them in the spring, they must be planted in the fall.