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Updated : 6/10/2014

Planting Bulbs

HOW TO PLANT BULBS

Spring Bulbs

Soil Requirements.

For most bulbs, any ordinary garden soil will do, provided that it drains well and is loosened to a depth of at least 20 cm: the length of the blade of an ordinary spade.

Very sandy soil can be improved by digging in peat or clayey soil to give it more body.

 Very clayey soil will benefit for the addition of sand to improve drainage and texture.

The ideal garden loam consists of about equal parts sand, clay and organic matter. Most flower bulbs prefer loam that is higher in sand content than in clay content.

Old, well-decomposed manure, compost or leaf mould incorporated into the soil before planting will benefit all bulbs. Do not use fresh manure as this will burn the roots. Never mix fresh foliage or grass cuttings into the soil as their decomposition robs the soil of essential nitrogen. The best soil is light and airy, allowing good drainage and enabling air to move freely through it. Organic matter incorporated into soil acts as a sponge, holding more moisture in sandy soil and improving drainage in clay soil, and so making nutrients for all your plants more readily available.

Planting

It is essential to plant bulbs only at the correct time of year. The bulb packets provide planting dates. Earlier planting will generally not result in earlier flowering. By all means buy your bulbs as soon as they become available, but plant them only in the correct month.

Winter- and spring flowering bulbs should be planted in autumn when the soil is no longer hot. Cool soil plus water trigger them to start sprouting. They need the cool winter to grow in. These bulbs cannot be kept out of the soil and planted in spring. They are dormant in summer when it is warm.

Summer bulbs should be planted only once winter is past and the soil has warmed up in late spring.

With all the smaller varieties at least 20 bulbs should be grouped together. Of the larger bulbs at least 10 together are needed to create the best effect. Very large bulbs such as dahlias or amaryllis may be planted singly. Plant all bulbs with the pointed side up, except anemones, of which the pointed end should go downwards if there is a pointed end. Plant ranunculi with the "fingers" of the claws pointing downwards.

Remember that winter and spring- flowering bulbs prefer cool soil. So, don't plant these next to a hot driveway or north facing wall or in a tub or pot in full sun. Tulips, hyacinths, Dutch irises and daffodils, in particular, will not do well in such locations.

Bulbs in pots or containers may be planted closer together and shallower than in the garden. In fact, they may be planted touching each other and sitting virtually aboveground. This will not harm their flowering ability, as long as they are kept well- watered.

A recommended planting method:

1. Remove the soil to a depth of 20 cm. The soil thus removed should be placed on a sheet of plastic, where it can be conveniently broken down and mixed with sand, compost or other organic material as required.

2. replace half the fine, broken- down soil. Plant your bulbs on this bottom layer.

3. Refill the bed with the remaining soil.

 4. Rake over and overplant with annuals of your choice.

Compost and Mulching

Mulching keeps the soil at a more constant temperature and helps to retain moisture. Flower bulbs therefore thrive under a mulch. The mulch need not be deep: anywhere from 1 cm to 3 cm will do. Use any of the following: dry veld grass, peat, dry leaves, composted tree bark, old compost. The best mulch of all is old compost, as this is also a food source for your bulbs. (See: Making compost). Mulching discourages weed growth by suffocating young emerging weeds.

Do not use fresh grass clippings, sawdust or wood shaving as these will rob the soil of needed nitrogen once they start decomposing.

Watering

It is vital to remember that the roots under bulbs must transport water to the foliage and flower heads. It is therefore useless to water a little every day. All you will achieve is to wet the top few centimetres of the soil, but the roots will remain dry. Soak the soil to a depth of about 15 cm every for to five days, or whenever the subsoil gets dry. Never let the soil dry out completely. This will in many cases result in abortion of flowers.

The germination process starts immediately after the bulb has been exposed to water and is then irreversible. Consequently if watering is neglected, even for a week, between the time of planting and the time of flowering, results will be less than desired.

Rain is mostly not sufficient to substitute for watering. With well drained soil it is very difficult to over- water flower bulbs. It is best to water flowering plants, including all bulbs, in the morning rather than the evening. Morning watering gives the foliage a chance to dry off before nightfall. This reduces the risk of mildew, slug attacks and fusarium disease.

If you have an insufficient water supply you can still grow bulbs successfully. Plant them in pots and containers, or shape the soil surface above them into a shallow, flat bottomed crater to direct the water to the bulbs. Keep the soil continually moist at root level from planting time onwards. More bulbs fail to bloom satisfactorily because of under-watering than for any other reason.



Anemone Growing Guide

Anemones

Anemone bulbs often benefit from a pre-planting soak to get them ready to grow. Before you head out to the garden to plant soak your anemone bulbs for 2-4 hours or overnight in a small bowl of water. This will encourage them to sprout faster and get growing so they develop a good network of roots their first autumn in the garden.





Outdoor Beds

  1. Find a location where the soil drains well. If there are still water puddles 5-6 hours after a hard rain, scout out another site. Or amend the soil with the addition of organic material to raise the level 3-5 cm to improve the drainage. Peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure all work well and are widely available. While anemones aren't fussy about soil, they will perform best in soil that provides good drainage.
  2. Site your anemones where they will receive full to half day sun. 
  3. Soak your bulbs for a few hours in lukewarm water to give them a little wake up call. While they are taking a dip you can prepare the soil, design your planting layout, run errands or simply relax.
  4. Dig holes and plant the anemones 3-5 cm down. Don't worry about which side of the bulb needs to face up. Regardless of how the bulbs are positioned they will still grow. Anemones typically can figure out which way is up. (Clever, huh?)
  5. After planting, water anemones well, gently soaking the soil and settling it around the bulbs. Roots will form in the autumn. In warm areas some foiliage may also develop in the fall. Buds and flowers are produced in the spring.
  6. When in bloom, feel free to cut anemone flowers for little bouquets. This will not hurt the plants.
  7. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulbs for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods; about 1" of moisture per week is a good estimate. 
  8. At the end of the summer the leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy. Foliage many be removed at this point. Your anemones will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.

Pots, Barrels, Tubs & Urns

  1. Fill your containers with good quality, well-drained soil. Almost any commercially available potting medium will work fine. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes; anemones bulbs must never sit in waterlogged soil or they will rot. 
  2. Site your anemones where they will receive full to half day sun. 
  3. Soak your bulbs for a few hours or overnight in lukewarm water to give them a little wake up call. This will help them develop good strong roots their first autumn.
  4. Dig holes and plant the anemones 3-5 cm down and just an 3-5 cm apart for the most brilliant displays. Don't worry about which side of the bulb needs to face up. Regardless of how the bulbs are positioned they will still grow. Anemones typically can figure out which way is up.
  5. After planting, water your containers well, gently soaking the soil so it settles around the bulbs. Roots will form in the fall. In warm areas some foliage may also develop in the fall. Buds and flowers are produced in the spring. 
  6. Enjoy your flowering containers, snipping a few flowers if you like. This won't hurt your plants.
  7. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulbs for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods, about 25 mm per week.
  8. At the end of the summer the leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy. Foliage many be removed at this point. Your anemones will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.
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