Plant Fall Bulbs Now for Spring Color

Posted On November 18, 2016— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch
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Homeowners and gardeners that would like to liven up their landscape with a splash of color in the spring can accomplish that goal by planting bulbs in the fall. Bulbs should be planted once the soil temperature is below 60°F. Luckily for us in Sampson County and surrounding areas, our soil temperature drops below 60°F in November and December, and now is a great time to get those bulbs in the ground.

Before planting bulbs, site preparation is essential for successful growth. Most all bulbs need to be planted in a soil that is well drained with a pH between 6 and 7. If you don’t know your soil’s pH level, collect a soil sample and have it analyzed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). Soil sample boxes are available at your local extension office and extension agents can assist you with instructions on soil sampling and analyzing the results.

If your soil is heavy or clay based, you can add organic matter such as compost, peat moss or shredded bark chips to help with drainage. If your soil is a sandier type, incorporating the same organic matter into the soil will help with moisture holding capacity.

Once the soil is amended, the next step is to purchase bulbs that will complement your landscape. Bulbs should be firm when purchased and small nicks or loose skin will not affect the bulb development. The size and number of flowers is directly related to the bulb size, so bigger bulbs will produce larger flowers and vice-versa. Daffodils such as ‘Carlton’ or ‘St. Keverne’ are classic yellow, large flowered bulbs that will return yearly. ‘February Gold’ or ‘Jack Snipe’ are yellow daffodil varieties that bloom early and shorter than traditional daffodils. Most other bulbs should be considered annuals, blooming for only one spring. If blooms occur in year two or three, consider it a bonus and count yourself as a great gardener. If you plan to purchase bulbs from a catalog, remember that south of Clinton to Harrell’s is plant hardiness zone 8a, and north of Clinton to Dunn is plant hardiness zone 7b.

The general rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to plant them at a depth two to three times the size of the bulb. A small bulb that is 1 inch in height should be planted 3 inches deep. A larger bulb, 3 inches in height, should be planted 6-8 inches deep. When preparing your planting area, make sure to loosen the soil 2 to 3 inches deeper than the bottom of the hole and incorporate one tablespoon of slow release fertilizer per square foot, then plant your bulb. Water thoroughly and cover your bulbs with a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch to help retain moisture and heat. During a dry winter, water every other week to keep the soil moist.

For more information on fall bulbs contact your local extension agent or visit the following websites: