One of September's most important and exciting jobs is to start buying and planting spring-flowering bulbs. Bulbs are easy plants to grow and will provide you with early spring color and bloom.
Buy Bulbs Now to Plant Later
Begin purchasing spring-flowering bulbs as soon as possible. They soon get picked over and sometimes put back in the wrong bins. A reliable local nursery is the best source of varieties that will do well in your climate zone, though some rare varieties can only be bought from catalogues or online. Choose the largest and fattest bulbs, because they produce the biggest blooms.
Among hardy bulbs some of the most popular are daffodils (Narcissus), hyacinths, Dutch irises (Iris xiphium hybrids), tulips, and crocuses.
Look for daffodils with three or more divisions. Don't pull them apart. If they're still connected, each point will produce a bloom. Feel them gently to make sure they're firm to the touch; softness means rot. Hyacinths perform best and give the most bloom if you buy large bulbs. Tulips have to be bought yearly. Don't buy "naked" tulip bulbs, ones that have lost their tunics (the brown papery skin), as they might be dried out.
Take your bulbs home but don't plant them yet. Getting them in the ground too early is a big mistake. Keep them cool and dry. Most spring flowering bulbs can be planted after the first frost - but wait longer for tulips, which may sprout if planted early.
Where To Plant
Most bulbs need full sunlight. Find an area that will provide them at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Early blooming bulbs may be planted under the canopy of deciduous trees or around deciduous shrubs (where they will get full sunlight until the leaves come in again). Combine bulbs with low growing groundcovers, or plant in the perennial border.
How To Plant
Most bulbs prefer a soil that drains well. Before you plant, we recommend working the soil deeply (or using a raised bed) and adding a good amendment to the soil. Also add a bulb fertilizer to promote root growth and spring flowering. Fertilize again in spring, just before flowering, to support foliage and increase bulb size--giving the plant more energy to produce beautiful blooms.
In general, you should plant bulbs twice as deep as their greatest diameter in a medium or heavy soil. In sandy soils, plant them about three times as deep. Put them in the soil with the pointed end up and the flat side down. To encourage root development, water them in well.