Thursday, September 25, 2014

While you're outside enjoying this fall weather, divide your spring-flowering bulbs

If you, like me, think every spring about how you just must divide those daffodil bulbs this year when they bloom in a crowded mass in the spring, but you forget about this task after the green foliage fades, consider this article your reminder.  In the spring, bulbs should remain undisturbed so they can change sunlight to food with their green leaves.  If you wait until the winter to divide the bulbs, you risk chopping of emerging shoots that will become flowers.  Summer and fall are the best time to divide spring-blooming bulbs because the plants are dormant.

To divide bulbs, use a spading fork or a shovel and insert it into the soil outside the area in which the bulbs are growing, and pry up.  You’ll probably end up severing some of the bulbs; toss those on the compost pile.  Separate the bulbs and replant them 4-6 inches apart and 4-6 inches deep, pointed end up.  Give the extra bulbs to friends, or expand your beds of flowering bulbs. 

I have planted daffodils throughout my woods, and in early spring, the woods are speckled with spots of yellow and white flowers.  Daffodils are reliably perennial, or come back every year, here.  Deer do not usually eat them, and so they are the perfect bulb to plant nearly anywhere in full sun.  Early, mid-season, and late blooming flowers are available so that the season of bloom can last from late winter to late spring. 

Here are my two girls enjoying the daffodils.  Don't worry, they didn't actually eat them.



Many of the daffodils I planted in my woods decided they could not survive their harsh life among tree roots, and have died.  I hope I’ll be able to divide my bulbs this fall, and to consign more bulbs to the woods.

Tulips are beautiful, but they do not  come back here reliably because our winters are not cold enough to give them the winter chill they need to prosper.  I obtain the best flowers by either putting them in the refrigerator, inside a paper bag, away from ripening fruit for about six weeks before I plant them, or by planting them in a container outside where they get cold temperatures without the insulating effects of the earth.  I treat them as annuals and throw the bulbs on the compost after they bloom.
Muscari, or bluebottles, make a nice container planting that lasts for years.

Bulbs make winter and spring container plantings interesting.  Instead of just planting a pot of pansies, tuck some bulbs underneath the pansies, in colors that coordinate with the pansies, and enjoy the surprise when they emerge.  If you plan to change the arrangement of perennials in the garden, consider putting flowering bulbs among the perennials so the emerging foliage of the perennials will conceal the bedraggled foliage of the bulbs. 

 

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