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When to Plant Spring Bulbs Outside or in Pots

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Here at Gertens, we have tried and true tips for how and when to plant spring bulbs outside or in pots. Use the following tips for best results!

Spacing your bulbs is important to keeping your plants healthy, and can be helpful if you need to dig them up again.

When to plant
If spring bulbs are being planted into gardens or borders, the soil must be thawed and the threat of frost past. Bulbs can be started in containers at any time. Due to our short growing season many tender bulbs should be started indoors in February or March. Containers can be placed or planted out after the threat of frost.

Which end is up?
This is sometimes the most difficult part of bulb planting. First look for distinctive roots, they should always be placed towards the ground. Also look for a pointed end, this is typically the shoot end and should be placed upward. For some bulbs such as the giant elephant ears the root and shoot end are less visible. The bulbs are round, with very slight root hairs around the bulb - the base of this bulb is distinguished by the rings around the bulb becoming closer together. Begonia bulbs have an impression on the top of the bulb. Canna lilies and dahlias are grown from tubers, they should be oriented lengthwise with root hairs down.

Depth and Spacing
Plant bulbs according to package directions. Depth and spacing will vary for each type of bulb. Spacing can be modified for mixed container planting. Place bulb at specified depth and cover with soil.

Water in thoroughly after planting, then water as needed to keep evenly moist. Fertilize plants with an all purpose fertilizer when they first sprout and then again after they are done blooming.

In the Fall
Tender bulbs must be dug in the fall in order to use them again. Canna lilies and begonias should be dug up after the first frost. Dahlias should be dug up after they have died back from a hard frost. Caladiums and anemone should be dug up in the fall before the frost. To dig the bulbs up use a shovel to lift the soil and bulb mass. Then separate the clumps by hand or with a trowel. Wash the bulbs, let them dry for a day or two, and then store them in peat or vermiculite in a paper sack. A cool, dry, well ventilated storage area is best.

Hardy bulbs can be left as they stand in the fall. Daylilies, Asiatic and Oriental Lilies, liatris, iris, as well as other perennials should be divided every few years, in the spring or fall.

Bulbs for shade:

  • Begonias

Bulbs for partial shade or sun:

  • Caladiums
  • Ranunculus
  • Liatris
  • Freesia
  • Anemone
  • Daylily
  • Oriental and Asiatic Lilies
  • Crocosima
  • Ornithogalum

Bulbs for full sun:
  • Calla Lily
  • Canna Lily
  • Dahlia
  • Oxalis
  • Iris
  • Brodiaea
  • Acidanthera

Ideas for containers
Mix pendula begonias and caladium for a shaded window box. Use canna lilies with other annuals to give your summer containers height and a tropical flare. Dahlias are striking enough to be planted alone.