New To Planting Bulbs - Many Questions for The Experts!

pdxwindjammerOctober 7, 2013

I have always been a vegetable gardener, not a flower gardener. I recently sheet mulched a large area of my front yard so I could plant ornamentals and vegetables together. I have planted mostly perennials that attract beneficial insects and a few bulbs.

I used 11 yards of premium 5 way compost as soil for my planting beds and everything did very well in it this year.

Here are a few questions:

What are your favorite online catalogs for bulbs with affordable prices and shipping?

Are there are bulbs that will thrive with hardly any sun? We have a tall birch and I have a small raised bed behind it that is shaded most of the day. I would like to plant some bulbs that would be good for cut flowers.

I also sheet mulched I big circle around the birch and would like to plant some bulbs in that area. This gets a bit more sun than the area behind the tree but it is early morning or late afternoon sun. What would thrive there?

Are there any tulip, hyacinth, daffodil or narcissi that do well in shady areas?

I live in Portland, OR and the weather is rarely extremely cold in the winter. Should I dig up my cannas and replant next spring?


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Remember that when the spring bulbs flower the tree will be leafless. So shade is not going to be a problem. Under a tree though dryness might be an issue.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 4:34PM
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If you want to plant spring flowering bulbs - tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, etc. - it is too late to consider ordering from a catalog. But most garden centers/nurseries have a full selection available right the PNW, even the grocery and box stores sell these bulbs (and Costco).

Tulips prefer a lot of sun but narcissus will take a fair amount of shade. And because most tulips bloom later than the daffs, often trees are more fully leafed out when they want to bloom. Crocus and snowdrops do fine in light shade as do muscari. I'd also site the hyacinths in a lot of sun for the best show.

As long as drainage is very good, cannas should overwinter fine. However, our soils warm up so slowly in spring, one often doesn't get sufficient growth to flower well if left in the ground. My suggestion would be to dig and store over winter indoors in a cool, dark location, then pot up quite early in spring. Placing the pots outdoors in early April in a full sun location will heat up that container soil sufficiently so that the tubers will be kick-started into growth. I follow the exact same program with dahlias :-))

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 2:59PM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24 and are sold out of some varieties but still have bulbs.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 9:17PM
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Thanks for the great info! I have seen lots of bulbs while shopping but variety isn't great. It would still be good to have the info of the best online places to purchase bulbs so feel free to share.

I will go ahead and dig up the cannas. I just put them in this year, late, but 3 out of the 4 have bloomed. They are HUGE and I love the foliage!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 10:33PM
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princessgrace79(8 PNW)

Portland Nursery isn't the cheapest but they have a ton of variety and you can buy by the individual bulb which to me is worth it price wise for variety vs big box just has one type or random mix. Not sure what part of PDX you are in, but I'd drive in town to avoid shipping. most bulbs can be planted thru December 1st since our ground doesn't really freeze.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 2:30AM
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I checked online ads for Fred Meyer and found they were selling all spring flowering bulbs for buy one, get one 1/2 off. I ended up with a 12 pack each of Marit Tulips and Purple Prince and then a 24 pack of a daffodil Naturalizer Mix and a 24 pack of Purple Pink Tulip Mix. This should do me for the time being and I will be out as soon as it warms up a bit to plant these! I can't wait for the burst of color in the spring!

I planted fall blooming crocus earlier this year and they had all popped up but then the torrential rains we got a week ago crushed them all down.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Do gophers eat tulip bulbs? I used to have quite a few tulips, but they have become less and less each year so that I only had about three come up. We had some gophers in our lawn last year, do you think they have eaten all my tulip bulbs?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 4:47PM
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There are three solutions to the shade problem:
1.) Plant things that bloom early. They will do their thing before the tree sprouts leaves. (Eg. Daffodils, Grape Hyacinth/Muscari). That's actually a major reason plants form get a head start and go through their entire life cycle before the trees shade them.
2.) Buy big bulbs and resign yourself to them dying in a few years...a big bulb has enough energy stored to survive a couple years with minimal sun.
3.) Buy bulbs that thrive in shade. Eg. Jack in the Pulpit, Lily-of-the-Valey (although that isn't a bulb), wild Ginger.

It's a bit late to mail order Spring bulbs. You can buy potted plants at garden centers and plant them.

What is your Zone? I make a point to not plant any bulbs that can't overwinter in my climate.

If you are experienced with vegetable gardening, bulbs shouldn't be a problem. It's just like planting onions. (Actually, onions ARE a bulb, and the Nodding Onion is a relative)

Yes, gophers eat tulup bulbs. Most animals will. You can ward them off by covering the tulip with hot pepper. Daffodils are less popular with rodents.

I like Bluff View Nursery and American Meadows. Local Native Plant Societies and Lowes.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 7:37PM
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ladychroe(z6 NJ)

I don't bother worrying about tree shade (except evergreens). Edlincoln is spot on... the whole reason bulbs evolved is to get a head start on their life cycle before the trees leaf out. Shade from a house is a different story. Those bulbs will get weak after many years, though still there are many that do just fine with only morning sun.

Have fun, and don't get addicted... actually, yes, go ahead and get addicted as long as you post pics here later :)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 12:18PM
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Hi, I have several questions on some bulbs I received. Hope you can help. Miss Saigon dutch iris. Can I plant this now in zone 5 or should I wait until spring. If I wait how should I store them. Also, daylilly frosted vintage ruffles. Can this be planted now and will they withstand zone 5 winters or do they need to be dug up. Also and this is the last question. I planted calla lilly bulbs in a pot, as I know they have to be brought in for winter. How do I store them. thanks for all your help

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 7:31PM
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Daylilies are not bulbs - you can plant them at any time and they are winter hardy inground in your zone.

Dutch iris are typically planted in the fall with other spring blooming bulbs but I think I'd prefer to plant now rather than attempting to store successfully until then. Well drained soil in an area that doesn't receive a lot of extra summer irrigation. You may very likely see some foliage growth this season which you can ignore. Flowers highly unlikely.

Just store your calla tubers in the pot they grew in in your basement or garage - somewhere cool but above freezing. They do not need any water over the winter if left in the potting soil.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 5:18PM
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