This undated photo shows flowering bulbs in New Paltz, N.Y. Over time, spring flowering bulbs, especially narcissuses like the ones shown here, can multiply to the point of becoming overcrowded, at which time they need to be dug up, separated, and replanted. (Lee Reich via AP)

This undated photo shows flowering bulbs in New Paltz, N.Y. Over time, spring flowering bulbs, especially narcissuses like the ones shown here, can multiply to the point of becoming overcrowded, at which time they need to be dug up, separated, and replanted. (Lee Reich via AP)

Plan and plant now for spring-flowering bulbs

It’s nearly that time of year when gardeners think of spring — of planting bulbs that are going to bloom then.

Bulbs are “pre-packaged” flowers, so a green thumb isn’t necessary to get those first season’s blossoms. Still, a few tips for buying and planting bulbs can make for a better show next spring and beyond.

The bigger the bulbs, the bigger next spring’s flowers.

Bulbs are usually sold as small, medium or top size, the measurement taken around the circumference where the bulb is fattest. Which measurements go with which size depends on the kind of bulb. Small tulips are 10 to 11 centimeters around, medium ones 11 to 12 centimeters, and anything larger is top size.

Naturally smaller bulbs include certain tulips, such as the charming waterlily tulip, as well as grape hyacinth, crocus and snow drop.

Over time, with good care, smaller bulbs will grow into larger ones, whose show will match that of the initially fatter bulbs. One way to compensate for smaller flowers would be to plant more of them, putting your money into buying more rather than fatter bulbs. Which brings us to …

More is better, for any kind of bulb. Forget about planting tulips in a single file ready to march like soldiers down the edge of your front path. Instead, plan for big dollops of color, massing bulbs in circular groups or, for bolder visual effect from fewer bulbs, triangular groupings with an apex directed to your vantage point.

Even though this coming spring’s flowers are already packaged inside bulbs, the more sunlight the plants bask in, the better will be the show they put on in years to come.

The spot where you plant bulbs doesn’t have to be bathed in sunlight all season — only until the bulbs’ leaves disappear. Those leaves disappear, fortuitously, at about the same time that emerging leaves of deciduous trees finally knit together to create cool shade.

Another consideration in siting spring bulbs is soil drainage; most abhor wet feet. The original home of tulips, narcissus, crocuses, and many other popular spring bulbs are the mountainsides of western Asia, on ground that is parched all summer. Holland is a good place to raise bulbs commercially because the long, cool, moist springs delay dormancy. In the long time before the bulbs’ leaves finally die back, the greenery has plenty of time to fuel the following season’s flower buds.

What about fertilizer? The traditional recommendation is to put bone meal into the bottom of the planting hole. Actually, a bulb does not need fertilizer to flower well its first season, only to flower well in subsequent seasons.

What these bulbs really need is any balanced fertilizer — including compost, the Cadillac of fertilizers — spread on the ground right after planting this fall or even in spring. Bone meal is not a particularly well balanced fertilizer.

Good growing conditions will get these bulbs multiplying, with younger bulbs budding off the mother bulb. Overcrowded bulbs won’t flower well, so they’ll eventually need to be dug up; a good time is when the foliage is dying down. They can then be replanted with sufficient elbow room.

And unless your yard is free of deer, plant types of bulbs that deer generally don’t like, such as ornamental onions, glory-of-the-snow, winter aconite, fritillaria, snowdrop, hyacinth, snowflake, squill and narcissus.

More in Life

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Unhinged Alaska: Bones

Just as we approached Ninilchik, we remembered that the Salmonfest would be in high gear

Minister’s Message: What a Friend we have in Jesus

Can Jesus really be your friend? Jesus said so Himself.

The procedure for this quick kimchi is much less labor-intensive than the traditional whole head method, and takes less time to ferment, making it ideal for first time kimchi-makers. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Garden fail — but kitchen win nonetheless

This quick kimchi technique is less labor-intensive than the traditional method

Kate Lochridge stands by one of her paintings for a pop-up show of her work on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by MIchael Armstrong/Homer News)
Pop-up exhibit shows culmination of art-science residency

The exhibit by Kate Lochridge came about after her internship this summer as a National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Ernest S. Hollings Scholar and Artist in Residence

Minister’s Message: The power of small beginnings

Tiny accomplishments lead to mighty successes in all areas of life

A copy of “Once Upon the Kenai: Stories from the People” rests against a desk inside the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Hidden history

‘Once Upon the Kenai’ tells the story behind the peninsula’s landmarks and people

Artwork by Graham Dale hangs at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. These pieces are part of the “Sites Unseen” exhibition. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Apart and together

‘Sites Unseen’ combines the work of husband and wife pair Graham Dane and Linda Infante Lyons

Homemade garlic naan is served with a meal of palak tofu, butter chicken, basmati rice and cucumber salad. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Naan for a crowd

When it comes to feeding a group, planning is key

P.F. “Frenchy” Vian poses with a cigar and some reading material, probably circa 1920, in an unspecified location. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 6

The many vital chapters in the story of Frenchy fell into place

Jesus, God of miracles, provides

When you are fishing or eating them, remember how Jesus of Nazareth used fish in some of his miracles

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Blooming sugar cookies

These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance