A guide to planting fall bulbs in Northern Utah

Sunday , September 04, 2016 - 10:48 AM

ANGIE ERICKSON, Standard-Examiner Staff

Fall is the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, so that when the snow melts and warm weather returns, your yard will be an abundance of color and texture.

Though it may seem difficult, planting bulbs is actually a simple task. It’s as easy as digging the hole, dropping in the bulb and covering the bulbs with soil. The trick is knowing a few basic steps.

“Planting fall bulbs give you spring color so when Easter comes along, you’ve usually got color from then until the middle or latter part of May,” said Bruce Roberts, Garden Shop and Commercial Manager at Valley Nursery in Uintah.

Once the bulbs are planted, they bloom year after year. So spending some time in the fall preparing and planting will bring beauty to your yard for years to come.

Buying bulbs

It’s time to buy your bulbs when you start seeing them on the shelves at the local stores and nurseries, usually mid-September. Choose bulbs that are healthy. A healthy bulb will be firm and free of decay, according to Britney Hunter, Horticulture Extension Faculty at the Utah State University Davis County Extension.

Check the packaging of the bulbs. The package will list the name of the bulb, most likely a picture of it once bloomed, the size of the bulb, and information on when it will bloom. Blooming times are early, mid- or late-spring.

What to plant

“Tulips are a very popular spring bulb since they come in so many beautiful colors and have a pretty, large blossom,” said Hunter. “However, there are other exceptional bulbs available.”

Two less-common bulbs, Hunter says, are the ornamental allium (onion), which has a large firework-shaped blossom, and anemone, which comes in several striking colors and often a dark, contrasting center.

Other popular spring bulbs include daffodils, crocus, galanthus (snowdrops) and hyacinth.

When to plant

October through early November is the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs along the Wasatch Front, according to Hunter.

Spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall because they require a period of freezing, dormant weather before they burst and sprout with color.

“You’re looking at Thanksgiving to the second week of December before the ground freezes too hard,” to plant, said Roberts. “Last year, the freeze was the first week of December. You just have to judge accordingly to what Mother Nature is doing out there.”

How deep?

The depth is usually three times the length of the bulb. For example, if you have a 2-inch bulb, you plant it 6 inches deep, according to Roberts.

“Here is the other rule you have to watch. If it’s heavy clay soil, you go less than that, so maybe you want to go two times the depth of the bulb. (For) sandy soil, definitely go three times the depth of the bulb,” he said.

Which side up?

Remember this: The roots will grow out of the flatter part of the bulb, and leaves will emerge from the pointed tip.

Roberts says a common mistake when planting bulbs is putting the bulb in the ground upside down. There is a top and a bottom to the bulb — and the pointed tip goes upward, he explains.

But if you make a mistake and plant it upside down, Roberts says, the bulb likely will still grow.

Care 

Incorporate some all-purpose fertilizer at the time of planting, and add one more fertilization in March. After that, enjoy the blooms and trim the leaves back after they start to dry. Leaving the leaves on longer will allow the energy to return to the bulb for next year.

The bulbs will continue to bloom year after year. After a few years, they start to multiply in the ground. Every four to five years, dig them up and take the old, tired ones out and let the newer, fresher ones remain and continue to grow.

Design ideas

Don’t stress too much about the design pattern. When planting a bunch of bulbs, dig a wide hole, drop them in and let them grow where they land, or create more of a pattern by color or bloom.

“I’ve seen people put crocus and tulips together or tulips and daffodils together,” said Roberts. “Or they will lay them out in a color formation. That is up to the individual and how they want it to look.”

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