How to care for your bulbs after planting

Most hardy bulbs and corms need relatively little attention during the growing season, and many will thrive for several years. However, there are some tips you can follow to ensure the best blooms.

How to care for your bulbs after planting

Weeding

  • Remove weeds, by hand or with a hoe, as soon as the bulbs' shoots show clearly.
  • Take special care not to damage the shoots, and avoid using weed killers.

Watering and feeding

Feeding is generally recommended for bulbs that are to be left in the ground for several years.

  • Use a mix of blood and bone meals on these bulbs, raking it lightly into the soil during the fall cultivation.
  • During prolonged dry spells in spring and summer, thorough watering will improve growth. If the plants are in bloom, water around the base rather than from above. Continue watering in dry spells even after the flowers have faded.
  • The growing cycle does not end until the leaves turn yellow and die.
  • Unless you must lift bulbs that have finished flowering to make room for other plants, the bulb foliage should be allowed to ripen naturally because it manufactures all the nutrients needed for the plant's future growth. One exception is snowdrops.
  • If the bulbs are crowded, these are best transplanted while still growing. Lift after flowering, divide, replant them immediately, and water.
  • Some gardeners tidy bulb foliage by knotting or otherwise fastening the leaves together. However, this technique should be avoided because it reduces the amount of leaf surface exposed to the sun, with a subsequent diminishing of nourishment to the bulbs.
  • Bulbs that are grown to provide cut flowers for the house in summer, gladioli for example, produce larger flowers if fed with a manure tea. This should be done every three weeks after the buds form and until they open.

Staking and mulching

Few bulbs need supporting if they have been planted deeply enough. In windy, exposed positions, however, the taller cultivars of gladioli, acidantheras, and alliums may need to be tied to bamboo canes.

  • Gladioli grown in rows for cutting are usually self-supporting. If necessary, however, insert a stake at both ends of each row, and tie strong string tautly between the stakes to the front and rear of the row for extra support.

Although certain types of bulbs are usually lifted and stored for the winter, gladioli, ixias, and nerines can be left in the ground in mild areas of the country. Protect these bulbs with a mulch, however, in frosty weather.

  • For mulching, some gardeners use a layer of salt hay, straw, or leaves kept in place with evergreen branches. Others prefer bark, buckwheat hulls, or pine needles. Do not use peat moss as a mulch because it blows away when dry and holds too much water when wet. Mulch bulbs after freeze-up.

Deadheading

As soon as spring bulbs — daffodils and other narcissi, tulips, and hyacinths — finish flowering, remove their faded blooms. (This is called deadheading.)

  • Cut off only the dead flower heads, but not the stem. The stems and leaves are needed to build up nourishment in the bulbs.
  • On a hyacinth, remove the small flowers that make up the spike by running your hand from below the flower cluster up to the tip. Leave the flower stem, since it will provide nourishment for the bulb.
  • On a faded gladiolus, cut off the flower spike, but leave at least four pairs of leaves.
  • Some bulbs and corms multiply freely from self-sown seeds. Snowdrops, scillas, winter aconites, muscaris, chionodoxas, and cyclamens should be deadheaded only if no more plants are wanted.

Planting bulbs is a simple a rewarding experience. Simply follow these tips throughout the year and you'll soon be the master gardener of the neighbourhood.

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