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Plant bulbs now for spring color

JoAnne Skelly

I’ve been itching to plant bulbs. I saw a big bag of daffodils one day and couldn’t resist buying them. I have been restraining myself from putting them in the ground knowing full well that with all this warm weather they might start growing. Then, winter would come and all the new growth would die, leaving me no bulb development in spring. However, spring bulbs still need fall planting.

Daffodils are one of the few bulbs ground squirrels won’t eat. The squirrels destroyed the lovely red tulips I had lining the path to the front door. By replacing the eaten tulips with daffs, I will once again have color next spring.

To have beautiful flowers in the spring, start with good quality bulbs. Choose firm large bulbs. Soft or mushy bulbs indicate disease or rot. Larger bulbs produce larger blooms. You can buy your bulbs locally from nurseries, discount stores or order from catalogs.



One of the reasons I wanted to plant the bulbs I bought, is that they should be planted as soon as possible after purchase. Since the weather has been too warm to plant, I have kept the bulbs cool in the garage. According to University of Illinois Extension the preplanting storage temperature should be between 50 and 60 degrees. They also say to keep bulbs away from ripening fruit that may produce ethylene gas (such as apples) and cause flowering disorders, especially with tulips.

As with any plant, proper soil preparation is important for bulb success. Good drainage is vital. If you have a soil with a high clay content, improve drainage by adding compost or organic matter. The organic material should be worked into the top 12 inches of soil, although working it in to 18 inches deep is even better. Add phosphorus before planting, mixing it in below the planting depth of the bulb. For daffodils, this mean below six inches deep. Mix bone meal, bulb food or super phosphate into the soil in the lower part of the planting bed as it is being prepared. Then, space bulbs six inches to 12 inches apart.



Daffodils are extremely variable ranging from the traditional yellow to white. The trumpet part of the flower may be long and tubular or short and cup-like, white, pink, yellow, orange or orange-red. Flowers can be single or double. They can bloom from early to late spring. Add the beauty and durability of daffodils to your landscape this fall.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.