Bulbs Looking Tired? We Can Fix That!
This past season you may have noticed that your tulips, allium, callas or other bulb plants bloomed a little less than usual. In fact, this may have been happening slowly over the past few seasons, the bulbs underground continually multiplying and becoming over-crowded, with the result being tired-looking flower beds and fewer and fewer flowers to decorate your yard or home.
Plants growing from bulbs are a fantastic way to ensure your vases stay full and your yard stays beautiful with very little maintenance; however, most plants require some form of TLC and bulb beds need to be thinned every few years in order to continue to look their very best.
Most flower beds planted in bulbs will grow in width and breadth, continuing to bloom prolifically for many years, displaying lush foliage when they aren't actually in bloom. Some bulb flowers, such as daffodils, will grow forever without needing much care at all, though most will benefit from regular feeding, as well as periodic lifting and dividing. The improvement you'll see upon feeding your bulb-type plants after they've been starved for a while may be quite dramatic and surprising.
So, if your bulb flower beds aren't producing blossoms like they used to, this spring may be the ideal time to refresh them and start a new traditionfeeding them on a regular basis. Fall is the best time to dig and divide bulbs, as the foliage starts to decline but is still visible. The bulbs will be in a recharging period, the blooming season done, preparing for next season's growth while slumbering through the winter.
You can also dig and divide bulbs in the spring, though you may lose out on some of that season's blossoms and it should be done as the bulbs are just starting to send up new growth:
- Keep in mind that bulbs' roots will pull them deeper over time, and they will spread out as a result of the offsets they produce.
- Dig carefully, a few inches away from where the stem exits the ground, gently rocking your trowel or bulb spade to loosen the soil as you dig deeper.
- Remove the bulb by lifting with your hands or garden tool from underneath; avoid pulling on the stem or foliage, and disturb the bulb as little as possible.
- Pull the offset bulbs from the base of the plant. You can replant all of the offsets or only plant the largest and give the smaller bulbs as gifts to your friends and neighbors. The largest offset bulbs will have more energy to bloom sooner.
- You can replant them right away, or store them for planting in the fall. Plant large bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep and smaller bulbs 4 to 5 inches deep.
- Check the original bulb's viability. If it appears damaged or otherwise unhealthy, discard it. If it seems to be healthy, you can replant it.
- You can replant all of the offsets or only plant the largest. Be sure to allow plenty of space between bulbs in order to increase the time necessary between refreshing your beds.
- Feed as you plant!
Some fertilizers are capable of burning the roots when put into the planting hole. Espoma Bulb-tone will not, when applied according to directions. If replanting, mix about 1 1/2 teaspoons of bulb food into the hole and mix well with the soil before putting the bulb back into the ground. If you are planting a large area, you'll be mixing about 1 1/2 lbs. (4 1/2 cups) for every 25 linear feet. For established bulbs, make your first application when the plants are about 6 inches tall and then reapply when the blooming season has ended, being sure to wash any stray fertilizer from the leaves while watering well.
This little bit of carefeeding twice a year with Espoma Bulb-tone and digging and dividing every 3 to 5 yearswill be worth every bit of effort when you see the resulting blooms and you cut those gorgeous, aromatic blossoms to fill your vases.