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Plant bulbs now to allow roots to grow before winter

Thursday, September 22, 2016

By Pam Baytos

OSU Extension master gardener volunteer

It’s time to plant bulbs.

After the soil temperature drops to below 60 in the fall months, spring flowering bulbs should be planted. This happens in the next few weeks.

Planting bulbs before the end of October gives bulbs time to grow roots before the ground freezes.

All bulbs can be divided into two categories: tender and hardy.

Tender bulbs, such as gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias, cannot stand freezing temperatures and must be dug up before winter or planted in greenhouses or indoor containers.

Hardy bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and crocus are just the opposite. They require cold temperatures during the dormant period, and they should be left in the ground in colder climates.

Bulbs have developed a protective storage organ that contains the entire plant in embryonic form.

The outer layers of this organ are tough and dry, while the inner layers stay moist to nourish the plant through its period of new growth.

Actually, many plants in this group are not true bulbs.

Tubers, corms and rhizomes are shaped a little differently and reproduce in a variety of forms, but all those have a similar storage organ and are cared for in much the same way.

Most bulbs like rich, well-drained soil with warm sunlight and protective mulch.

Planting them in containers or beside a southern-facing wall provides protection and will showcase your flowers.

In general, large bulbs are better for planting in beds and borders. Smallers flowers do well as under-plantings and in wooded and rock gardens.

Planting in late September is effective for many reasons.

The best reason: Think of places for bulbs to show their beauty, while hiding their tattered, browning foliage at the end of the spring season.

Consider planting bulbs between other perennials where you can hide that dying foliage and not worry about cutting it back before it dies off naturally.

It is crucial to plant bulbs at the correct depth for each variety. A good rule of thumb is to dig a hole three times as deep as the bulb’s greatest diameter.

When planting in rows, it’s easiest to dig a trench the correct depth.

For a more natural effect, you will need to dig holes with enough space to plant at least 3 bulbs in each.

The roots of bulb plants must have phosphorus to assist with establishment. This can be supplied by using bone meal or super phosphate fertilizer in your planting hole. It doesn’t take much. For example, you need only 2 to 3 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet.

After mixing the fertilizer into soil, set your bulbs in an upright position. Then fill in with soil and pack lightly with your hands. Water thoroughly.

For assistance with planting your bulbs, go to http://go.osu.edu/plantingbulbs.