Plant daffodils/tulips 12' deep to avoid frost heave?

wynswrld98(z7 WA)November 9, 2009

I live in the Pacific Northwest (suburb of Seattle/Tacoma), watch a weekly local gardening show on TV hosted by Ciscoe Morris, he recently had a story about problems with bulbs (he was specifically talking about tulips) in our area blooming for one year then disappointing results (few come up next year, of them many don't bloom but worse most don't come up), etc.

He said the answer to it is to plant the bulbs 12" (yes 12" deep). I think he said frost heave is a big problem here and this helps avoid it and he obviously stated well drained soil a must or else they'll rot.

I've had disappointing results with tulips where I do get them to bloom nice one year but then hardly the following year just like Ciscoe says but I haven't been planting them more than 4-6" deep (bottom of hole depth) and have had similar problems with daffodils over time whereby they stop coming up or those that do come up don't bloom.

Anyway I was considering trying what Ciscoe recommends and do it both for tulips and daffodils -- 12" hole with some bulb fertilizer/compost mixed with soil at bottom of hole then bulb then sand to try and keep soil light.

I'm curious if anyone has tried this and if they can elaborate on what frost heave does to bulbs (moves them towards soil surface then frost damages the bulbs?)?

Thanks in advance!

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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

Hi wynswrld98,

I certainly do not agree with what was said and I have never had frost heave on any bulbs. I have however had frost heave on numerous things (irises, small perennials, etc) planted too late in the season to get their roots established, thus anchored in the ground.

The main reason why tulips do not reliably return and bloom the second season, is that they are not actually perennial tulips. There is a big difference in tulips and the Darwin Hybrids have been bred to be much more perennial, and thus will return for successive seasons.

There could be numerous reasons why your daffs no longer bloom, but my guess is that they have multiplied, and the bulbs have grown smaller, because of dividing, and they just need dug and replanted with the proper spacing.
Daffodils planted a little deeper than the suggested depth, will not multiple as quickly as those planted at the suggested depth. Likewise, daffodil bulbs planted more shallowly than suggested, will multiply in number more quickly than if they were planted at the suggested depth.

If I were to plant daffs or tulips 12" deep here in my clay soil, chances are that they would never be able to have the strength to emerge and see the light of day, much less have enough energy to put forth a bloom.

Below are some links to some suggested reading.

Why Perennial Tulips are Better

Daffodils Not Blooming?


    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 1:25AM
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Sue is correct on why most tulips tend not to return year after year. And it has nothing to do with frost heave! BTW, frost heave in the Puget Sound area is non-existent anyway. Our soil never freezes to any significant degree - only an inch or two at most and that after a prolonged below freezing period, which are pretty uncommon here.

While Ciscoe is a dynamic TV and radio personality, he is not the be-all and end-all of gardening advice by any means and he often gives out very questionable information. Take what he says with a large grain of salt!! One of the most important concepts behind the perennializing of spring flowering bulbs is that they prefer to stay dry through the summer months. If they are planted in areas with other plants that get normal, frequent summer irrigation they are not as likely to return reliably. And make sure the area has very good drainage - anything that tends to absorb or hold moisture through the bulb's dormant period (summer into early fall) can lead to rot.

FWIW, the recommended planting depth for most bulbs is 3 times the bulb diameter. I've yet to see a tulip bulb that measured 4 inches across!!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 9:50AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Sounds like you already have enough good advice..... I just couldn't help but chime in on how annoying I think Ciscoe Morris is. I didn't realize he had his own show, I've only seen him as a guest on gardening by the yard.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 6:09PM
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Tulips aren't a big thing here in the subtropical desert, but now I'm left with a question: if tulips aren't bred to be perennial, how do they get them to multiply and grow to blooming size in the Netherlands?
By the way, the Darwin Hybrids do do better than most tulips here, also.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 5:09PM
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