Spring Bulbs to the Rescue

— Written By and last updated by

It’s been a hot, trying summer and the cooler fall temperatures have many of us looking forward to getting outside to work off some tension. Sure there are the clean-up chores from the summer vegetable garden, and the anticipation of fall harvests, but one of the most enjoyable garden activities is dreaming up beautiful splashes and swaths of spring color. Grab your garden clogs, catalogs, and sketch pad!

Beginning about the Thanksgiving holidays, we’ll be planting our bulb orders,  and that is not that far away. Are you ready to try something new? For a successful, rewarding experience in the garden KNOW BEFORE YOU GROW.

Spring bulbs are planted in fall, spend winter in the ground, and flower in spring.

Irises, Spring Bulbs

Irises, Spring Bulbs

Some of the more common spring bulbs are tulips, irises, daffodils, hyacinth, allium, and crocus. A cold period is necessary for a process called vernalization.

Vernalization is a cold period required by the plant in order to flower. If they don’t receive this cold period, the response that triggers flowering won’t occur and flower buds won’t be made, so these bulbs need several weeks of cold temperatures to break their dormancy and flower to their full potential.

Most fall-planted bulbs will come up and bloom the spring after they are planted. Some will come up and bloom once, some for three or four years before dying out, while others will persist and multiply for many years. A joy-filled garden will reflect your personality, be it a formal garden, or meadow style drifts, under trees, or mindfully planted throughout beds and borders. Some bulbs will multiply enough overtime to naturalize an area, so plan carefully. If your site provides the bulbs with good drainage and sunlight, your spring garden will be filled with rewards.

The bright yellow of Daffodils shout “Happy Spring” to me, and they come in such

Daffodils, Spring Bulbs

Spring Bulbs

a variety of colors and sizes. Plus the deer leave them alone! The larger, showier varieties of tulips don’t perennialize here, but the smaller, two-toned, delicate looking Lady tulip (Tulipa clusiana), is tougher than she looks, will spread by underground stems and bulb offsets, and is highly drought tolerant.

If you buy bulbs this fall, but don’t have a chance to get them into the ground before it freezes, you can store them in your refrigerator to give them the vernalization period that they need, but take care to ensure that they don’t dry out or stay too wet and become moldy.

To find out more regarding the best performers and their bloom times, take a look at the research trials conducted by the NC Agricultural Research Service at Spring-Flowering Bulbs: Trials in North Carolina.

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.