Revised 9/93 -- Author Reviewed 4/96


M.A. (Kim) Powell
Extension Horticultural Specialist
P.V. Nelson, Professor
Department of Horticultural Science
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University

  I. Plan in the Spring

  A. Photograph your spring garden to know where your bulbs need
     to be planted in the fall.

  B. Major Bulbs (Tulips, Hyacinths, and Daffodils)
     1. Flowering season: mid February to mid May, depending on
        local weather and climatic conditions, e.g. coastal
        plain, piedmont, mountains.
     2. Height range: 6 inches-3 feet
     3. Colors and shapes: A wide selection is available.

  C. Specialty bulbs (Allium, Crocus, Galanthus, Fritillaria,
     Scillas, etc.)
     1. Flowering season: mid February to early July, depending
        on local weather conditions.
     2. Height range: 3 inches-4 feet
     3. Colors: A wide selection is available when all species
        are used.

 II. Purchasing - Fall

  A. The best purchasing criteria for bulbs is that they be
     firm.  Buy early to get the best selections.  The size
     and/or number of flower(s) is directly related to the size
     of the bulb.

  B. Small nicks and loose skins (tunic) do not affect
     development of the bulb.  In fact, loose tunics aid in
     inspecting for diseases and this condition encourages

  C. Keep cool (50-65 F) before planting.  Be certain, however,
     to keep bulbs away from ripening fruit since they produce

III. Planting Techniques - Fall
  A. Where to plant?
     1. Bulb Soils
        a. Good drainage is essential for spring-flowering
           bulbs!  If the soil is mostly clay, mix in an organic
           amendment such as peatmoss, compost, aged bark, etc.,
           up to 50% in volume, or plant in raised beds.  If the
           soil is mostly sand, add an organic amendment to
           increase water and nutrient holding capacity.
        b. Soil pH is critical!  The pH of the planting area
           should be in the 6-7 range.  If you need assistance
           in this area, contact your county extension office.
      2.   Spring flowering bulbs can be used in beds (annuals
           or perennials), borders, ground covers, rock gardens,
           and wooded areas.  For perennialization, avoid
           planting them near heated basements.  These bulbs do
           best in areas which do not receive direct sunlight
           during midday, especially during hot summer months.
      3.   Some bulb types can be interplanted in the same area
           based on time of flowering and plant heights, e.g.
           Crocus, Muscari, and Allium.

  B. When to plant?
     Spring and early summer flowering bulbs must be planted in
     the fall in order to develop a root system and satisfy the
     cold requirement of the bulbs.  Wait until soil
     temperatures are below 60 F (16 C) before planting.  In NC,
     this is usually late October to November.

  C. Excavate the area to be planted.  The depths given below
     are measured from the base of the bulbs to soil level.
     1. Small sized (1 inch in height) bulbs - 5 inches deep
     2. Large sized (2 or more inches in height) bulbs - 8
        inches deep
     These depths of planting will help protect the bulbs
     against frost, animals and physical damage due to hoeing,
     etc.  Be certain to thoroughly loosen the soil under the

  D. Place bulbs in bed; space according to size. Large bulbs
     should be 3-6 inches apart, small bulbs 1-2 inches. 
     Interplant, if desired.

  E. Cover bulbs with soil using only one-half of the soil
     removed.  Water thoroughly!  Finish covering bulbs with
     remaining soil.

  F. Cover the bed with 2-3 inches of mulch.

  G. If the fall is dry, water area as needed.

  H. Bulb Fertilization
     Fertilization improves bulb performance!  Newly planted
     bulbs will have improved quality.  In addition,
     fertilization encourages bulbs to perennialize; that is,
     flower for several years without replacing or dividing the
     There are 2 fertilizer systems available for spring-
     flowering bulbs!  The first system utilizes a single fall
     application at planting. You can purchase a sulfur-coated,
     slow-release complete fertilizer.  This should be
     incorporated into the rooting area at planting, at a rate
     of 1 rounded tablespoon per square foot.  The second system
     uses bone meal incorporated in the rooting area at planting
     time with an application of 8-8-8 (1 level tablespoon) or
     10-10-10 (1 rounded teaspoon) in the fall, followed by a
     repeat application of the same fertilizer as soon as you
     see shoots breaking the ground in the spring.

 IV. Spring

  A. If fertilization of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 was used in the fall,
     repeat the treatment (see III H above).

  B. After flower petals fade or fall off, remove flower organs
     with scissors or a hand pruner.

  C. Allow foliage to die naturally!

  D. When desired, overplant area with summer annuals.

  V. Diseases - If one starts with healthy bulbs, bulb diseases
     are generally not a problem.  However, if the soil becomes
     diseased, use Terraclor (PCNB) in the bed before planting
     the bulbs in the fall.  The major foliar disease is
     Botrytis (Fire).  This is readily controlled by many
     available fungicides.  Check labels for recommendation.

 VI. Insects - The insect that may become a problem is the
     aphid. It can be readily controlled by available
     insecticides.  Check labels for recommendations.

VII. Splitting or Harvesting Bulbs - This is not generally
     advised.  If bulbs were satisfactory, do not disturb!  If
     unsatisfactory, remove the entire plant as soon as flowers
     are finished and replant next fall with new bulbs.

Published by
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.