It’s Not Too Late to Plant Bulbs!

By Christa Watters

Procrastinators rejoice! Though those of us who grew up in colder climes may think it’s too late to plant our bulbs for spring bloom, it’s really not – at least not for all bulbs. Tulips, for example, can rot in the ground in our heavy Virginia soil during warm, wet falls. Some sources say that waiting until about first frost is better for tulip bulbs, which like colder climates. Plus, it gives the squirrels less time to dig them up before frost hardens the ground. Still, you need to get them in before the ground really freezes. 

So November, and sometimes even early December is still fine. It’s also fine for planting daffodils and narcissus bulbs, hyacinths, crocuses, even grape hyacinths.

Grape Hyacinths

Grape Hyacinths

Be generous – color massing is the most effective way to create an impressive and heart-lifting display next spring. So cluster the bulbs in drifts that complement the rest of your borders or beds.

2 - Glossy Tulip Perfection

Cluster complementary colors in your borders for maximum effect.

In our area, most hybrid tulips don’t successfully come back in succeeding years, and should thus be treated like annuals. If you do leave them for a second year, choose Darwin varieties, some authorities recommend. Alternatively, choose species tulips that generally perennialize better and naturalize well in rock garden clusters, as in this photo of Kaufmanniana tulips at the Simpson Waterwise Garden.

3 - Kaufmanniana Tulips Closeup

Kaufmanniana Tulips

Daffodils and narcissi are much more reliable at coming back year after year and even multiplying in the ground. Choose some bulbs for their massing effect, yes. But also consider choosing some for their individual beauty, like these gracefully winged white and yellow Cyclamineus narcissi.

4 - White and Yellow

Cyclamineus narcissi

For fall crocus and colchicums, the fall-blooming relatives of our spring bulbs, it is, unfortunately too late this year, but while you peruse the catalogs, make a note on your calendar to order the bulbs in a timely manner next year. Spend some time this winter researching the best times for those . Here are a few photos of fall blooming bulbs to set you dreaming:

5 - Autumn Crocus

Autumn Crocus

Colchicum

Purple White Colchicum

Sternbergia Lutea

Lavender Colchicum

Lavender Colchicum

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