? Bulbs Forum FAQ: General Information

Frequently Asked Questions

 ? What is the Difference in Bulb Quality, and What are Some Good Catalog Sources?

hemal 8 - I just received my first White Flower Farms catalog and notice the big price difference between their bulbs and those from Van Bourgonien and Gurney's and other catalogs. I am going to order bulbs this fall, but now am wondering if the more expensive bulbs are better.

lynch - I have ordered many bulbs, easily 100,000 or so, and most of them have come from Van Bourgendein. I have had great success with them and the prices are reasonable. Look for the sizing on the bulb within their catalog. It describes which bulb size is bigger. There is DN 1, 2 and 3. I personally go for the bigger ones. I wouldn't count out WFF either though. If you are getting into specialty bulbs I would probably order from them.

Katherine Hung CAZN9 - Personally I do not like Michigan Bulb Company as the quality is not there. I like Schipper & Co (800)877-8637 for my tulips as I buy a lot ( at least 50 for each color ) and their wholesale price is good. I am also fond of Dutch Garden but it is a bit more expensive than Schipper & Co -- it all depends on the variety you want and the amount you need. I have a WFF catalogue also. I do not plan to order common bulbs from them. If I want some harder to find perennials I will order from them though.

Andie Rathbone (MO/Zone 6a) - White Flower Farm is one of the most expensive places you can get bulbs from. I limit them to perennials, where quality & price are usually in direct relationship. I order tons from VanBourgondien, and have had very good luck with them. Their prices, especially from their wholesale catalogs are excellent. If you are ordering lots of bulbs (i.e. lots >100 bulbs) try Dutch Gardens (1-800/818-3861) and Van Engelen (1-800/567-8734). They also have excellent prices and good quality bulbs.

Mark - 6 - I did some ordering of tulip bulbs from catalogs this year-van Bourgondien, Dutch Gardens and Henry Fields. I was very satisfied with the tulip bulbs from van B and Dutch Gardens but the Henry Fields stuff was half moldy and also undersized. I'd avoid HF and Gurney's which appears to be a very similar catalog. I don't think you will go wrong with van B's or Dutch Gardens.

Lynn Hansen - 4b - I agree White's FF are very pricey, I purchased oriental lily bulbs several years ago, was very disappointed on the bulb size and viability of the bulbs the following spring. I good luck with Dutch Gardens and VanB's also. The bulbs were is good quality and arrive in excellent condition for planting. I also agree that Henry Fields plant stock is of very poor quality and in most cases questionable if its the right plant cultivar.

Susan King Z7a - I ordered bulbs from Daffodil Mart for the first time this year. I just received my order and have been very pleased. The bulbs were healthy and large, and less expensive than I can buy locally!

Rachelle - I have had very good luck with Dutch Gardens. After ordering spring bulbs and lilies from them, I now use their quality as the standard I measure other products against.

Bob Spotts - For you that have always purchased daffodil bulbs from IMPORTERS, I suggest you try buying some from GROWERS. I think you'll be amazed at the breadth of new varieties they can provide - and in the health of the bulbs you'll receive. No more bulbs with a touch of basal rot attached.

Try some of these:

Grant Mitsch Daffodils PO Box 218 Hubbard OR 97032
Bonnie Brae Gardens 1105 SE Christensen Road Corbett OR 97019
Oregon Trail Daffodils 41905 SE Louden Road Corbett OR 97019
Cascade Daffodils 27850 Highway 101, S Cloverdale, OR 97112
Oakwood Daffodils 2330 W. Bertrand Road Niles MI 49120

 ? What Does Bulb Size Mean? How Big is 'Large' & How Small is "Small'?

Jen, CA/Z9 - I'm TOTALLY new to bulbs and gardening in general. I have some narcissus 'paper whites' which I plan to put out in our perennial border this fall. I bought them at the nursery. Instructions for planting bulbs specify a certain depth for a large or small bulb. Since I'm new to this I have no idea what "large" or "small" mean in terms of inches. Can anyone help?

Neil Allen Z5IL - "Large" in this context usually refers to the height of the plant in bloom. Thus there are "large" bulbs such as tulips and narcissus vs. "small" or "minor" bulbs such as crocus, scilla, etc. Of course, some narcissus, mainly species, are themselves "small," as are many species tulips.

I imagine the advice was to plant "small" bulbs about 3" deep, "large ones 6-8" deep. I would think that other things being equal something like paperwhites would qualify as "large," because the only hardy relative of a paperwhite that one would plant in the ground in Chicago would be treated that way.

Andie Rathbone (MO/Zone 6a) - You're right about bulb size as far as tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are concerned. Larger bulbs make better flowers; although with hyacinths a medium grade is probably better for outside, as the truly large bulbs produce flowers so large that the stems snap in early spring rains. As a general rule, plant your bulb 2 times as deep as the bulb is big. For the aforementioned bulbs, this is 6-7"

Neil Allen Z5IL - For what it's worth, Dutch Gardens, which generally supplies superb stuff, says that all of its "Ziva" paperwhites are at least 15 cm in circumference. Bulbs are also graded, with DN I being the largest. With smaller daffodil bulbs, you get fewer stems/bulb and perhaps fewer flowers/stem. (Some produce only one flower/stem no matter what.) When people are naturalizing bulbs in large areas, they sometimes prefer to get a larger number of smaller sized bulbs (say, DN III), figuring that they will get bigger over the years. But for any given variety, the planting depth is the same for all bulb sizes. (The 2 or 3 times height rule still works -- they get fatter, and have bigger offsets as they get larger, but they don't get much taller.)

 ? The Weather is Going Crazy. What Will Happen to My Bulbs?

KathyZ Z9/Ark - I am a novice gardener and I would like to say that I have enjoyed reading your comments and have learned quite a bit from them. I would like to use your collective knowledge to figure out what I should do about some of my bulbs. This past Sunday, January 5th, 1997, we had a record high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit; today, Thursday, January 9th, there is an inch of ice on the ground and the predicted low is 15 degrees for the next three nights. I had some Dutch Irises and some daylilies, as well as my mother-in-law's Dutch Hyacinths that were already coming up. What can I do, if anything, to save these plants? My daylilies have never even bloomed before and I would at least like to know what color they are. Please respond ASAP!!!!

Andie Rathbone Mo/Zone 6A - Kathy, We've had this crazy weather in Missouri too. I'm assuming that the shoots of your plants weren't too far out of the ground. This frequently happens to me when we get abnormal warm spells in the winter. I just cover them up with mulch. They should be O.K. when it starts to warm up for real. Probably sometime in February where you are.

The real problem is right at the beginning of spring when the plants are all up, have buds on them and then you get a big freeze. This happened to us last year, and about 1/3 of my daffodils never did bloom. I'm hoping for more normal weather (if there is such a thing) this year.

A. Tussing - Hi Kathy.... same thing has happened here in northern Ohio... Saturday Jan. 4 and Sunday Jan.5, the temperature topped out above 60 degrees... we set a record both days, then the temp dropped back to teens and twenties with 6 inches of snow on the ground!!! Listen, don't you worry about your Dutch irises.... all fall and winter, sprouts will inevitably appear, this will not harm the plants.

Bev (Ont6b) - Don't take it personally, Kathy, we've had the same weird weather here in Ontario. A couple of weeks of warm weather in the middle of winter can be so destructive because it fools the poor bulbs into thinking spring is coming early. Andie, I had the same problem with daffs last year. When I was going through the photos for Janet, I noticed that the ones from spring '95 had lots of daffs and the spring '96 ones were daff-less. Do you think that they were destroyed or will they re-emerge this spring? I planted quite a few more on the off-chance they didn't make it from last year.

Andie Rathbone Mo/Zone 6A - Bev, I'm betting the daffs come back this year, because the foliage didn't die last year, the buds just got zapped. Same thing for my forsythia and crab apple tree and bradford pears. They just went directly to green and never bloomed.

 ? How Do I Plant Bulbs in Zone 4?

s swoboda - I have a variety of bulbs from hyacinths to daffodils to allums. I'm very excited but nervous about planting. I've been told to plant up to 18 inches deep up here in Maine even if the package says 5 inches. can anyone Help me, please.

Skip MNZ4 - As was said in one of Shakespeare's plays, "We come to plant the bulbs, not bury them". 18 inches is way too deep and 10 inches is getting to the outer limit as well. A depth of 8 inches should be max for most of the larger cultivars of tulips and daffodils. Better to plant at 8 inches and mulch than to inter them.

Linda D(MI/Z4) - Follow the directions and remember that snow is a great insulator. I've never had failures with bulbs here in snowy & cold zone 4 - and I plant generally at six inches for all daffodils less than that with smaller bulbs. Our temps in February will hit -30 on occasion.

 ? How Do I Plant Bulbs in Clay Soil?

Cora Lea (Iowa-Z5) - We have good topsoil - down to about 8". After that we have clay that becomes hard as a brick in the summer if not watered. Should the clay be a consideration as to the depth of the tulip? What should I put in the hole to fertilize (nourish) the bulb? Should I be digging down further and removing the clay and replacing it with good soil?

I have also purchased crocus, Muscari Armeniacum "Blue Grape Hyacinth",Narcisse "Paperwhite", and Hyacinths "Jacinthes" (Fragrant Blue Giant). Would you suggest the same planting treatment for them?

Skip MNZ4 - You have 8 inches of good soil in Zone 5 so I would think you could plant the bulbs at 6, maybe 7, inches. The problem is not that tulips won't do well in clay but it's that the clay underlayment acts as a barrier to good drainage and if you have really wet conditions this may, indeed, lead to rotting of the bulbs. The Hyacinths can go in at the same depth as the tulips while the Muscari can go in at 5 inches. I use 5-14-42 on our sandy Postassium poor soil but I have also used some of the bulb booster products (9-9-6) available. Some are slow release which is designed to give a slow feeding over time. Just don't let the fertilizer come in direct contact with the bulb or disaster will be the result.

Kirk Johnson Zone9 Oregon - I have very heavy clay soil. I only grow bulbs on slopes, in raised beds and along the edge of my clay bottom pond. That may sound soggy but the top edge of the pond excavation is around 18 inches above the water level. It is one of the best drained spots in my garden.

ruth anne (IL. zone 5a) - Cora Lea - I asked a similar question regarding the planting of lily bulbs (oriental) and there were excellent suggestions that I would guess would pertain to tulips, etc. An important condition to note in regards to the clay had to do with the drainage, or lack thereof. It was recommended to put a handful of coarse sand & gravel under & around the bulbs, mixed into the soil, to encourage good drainage.

Clare B (MO zone 6) - Try this to improve drainage through that underlaying clay. Get one of those soil augers that attach to an electric drill. I think there are some made for deep aerating and root feeding. I think they have a narrower gauge but much longer bit than bulb drills. Dig out your hole for planting, then drill drainage holes at the bottom of that hole. Fill the drain holes with pea-pebbles or course sand. Of course, if you get much precipitation, the holes might just fill up fast anyway.

Kirk Johnson Zone9 Oregon - During the rainy season, if I dig a hole one foot deep it will start to fill with water (even when it isn't raining). If your drainage is the bad, don't try the sand at the bottom of the hole appraoch. If you can't find any spots in your garden that will provide the drainage, you will need raised beds, or you can plant bulbs in pots. Remember that Crocus don't require the same depth of drainage as Tulips.

Rick Henderson - I find it hard to believe that nobody has suggested compost as a good medium to improve drainage. If you have really heavy soil, loosening up one small spot will only cause water to collect in that spot. You would be much better off to loosen up an area and improve the soil with organic matter. Bone meal (0-11-0) is an excellent NATURAL enriching amendment for all flowering plants and a small handful in each bulb hole is highly recommended.

Barbara - I have had excellent results planting the bulbs in what is sometimes called the Dutch method - you dig up earth in a circle, about 18in. diameter, fill it with a mixture of compost and peat, and plant several bulbs. I've found this successful for tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, not so good with daffodils. My temperature zone is similar to US Zone 6/7 (winter minimum temp. is about -15 deg C, in summer it is as hot as +35 deg C). And, by the way, on perennializing the tulips: I dig them up every year, and the Apeldoorns and Oxfords are better from year to year. The lily-flowered types have to be renewed every few years.

Deborah Curtis - I too have horrible Indiana Clay soil, and I follow the same procedure that you use each fall! I dig, dig, and dig to get out the brick hard clay, and then pitch it over the fence. I then fill the hold with good soil and peat moss.

I just wanted to reassure you that I have had great luck, beautiful HUGE tulips, every spring for 8 years. The only problem is it is SOO much work to dig out that clay; but it's definitely worth it in the spring. I get compliments on my tulips every year!

 ? When Do I Plant My Bulbs?

Jean Z - I have just bought trumpet daffodils, mixed crocus, and various colored tulips....can someone please advise me on when I should plant these bulbs.

Skip MNZ4 - In Zone 7, you can start planting in mid-October. Tulips can be planted late in the season, as long as the soil can be worked. Here in Zone 4 I have planted tulips at the end of November, with snow on the ground.

D. Schuman - Everything except the tulips can go in as soon as it is available in the stores...(mid Sept.) Tulips should wait until the ground is no longer warm (not frozen).

Andie Rathbone (MO/Zone 6) - Here in Zone 6 I plant the daffodils and crocus as soon as they arrive (early October) and the tulips around Veteran's Day

You're pretty far north, so just put the bulbs in the ground. Anytime before the ground freezes. Don't worry too much about the rain. I've planted bulbs in the pouring rain, as well as in the snow. They don't call them hardy for nothing!

JJJC - 5A- I have planted bulbs as late as December. As long as the ground can be dug to the depth needed for the particular bulb your planting, go ahead. If the ground is really wet and soggy wait for it to dry up some, dig your planting hole an inch or two deeper than needed and add some coarse sand, then some soil & the bulb. Bulbs will take cold but not WET. Be sure your soil drains well. 45 years ago I planted my first tulip bulbs upside down!(what did I know?) in the Spring they all came up, they just turned themselves around the bulb and headed up. So you see you can't make many mistakes with bulb plants.

 ? How much mulch should I place over bulbs?

Kevin Stoker - 5 - I have recently planted a couple of bulb beds. Cold winters in much cedar mulch should I use to cover the bulbs? Should the mulch be taken off in the spring or will the bulbs grow through the mulch? Is cedar the best mulch or should I use leaves or something else?

Sara (MI/z5) - Well, tulips seem determined to come through just about anything, even sidewalk cracks. Other bulbs aren't quite as ambitious. I usually use a couple of inches of leaf mulch, and this year, I am using straw too. I have not used cedar, but cypress mulch is good as well, though I wouldn't use it for my crocuses. A few inches of compost would also work well.

Linda D. - MI/Z4(a) - Cedar mulch is fine, just will take longer to break down into the soil than leaves. In the spring time, pull back the mulch from the plants as they begin to break thru the soil. This will allow the sun to warm up the soil as well as the plants. The depth of the mulch depends on how cold it gets there. Here in snowy Northern Mich, I use 4-6 inches over my lilies, but don't bother putting extra mulch over spring bulbs such as daffys, etc. since they are so hardy. Plus snow is the best insulator of all.

JJJC - 5A ILL - Northern Ill......I use 4 inches of cedar mulch over everything, and I never pull it back. I usually top dress my borders again in the Spring. I like a lot of mulch as we can not depend on snow cover.

 ? Should I Fertilize at Planting Time? -

Murf - 5b - I am not fertilizing when planting my bulbs this year for several reasons. Since my "soil" is mostly course sand (courtesy of a retreating ice sheet), most fertilizer barely has time to wave hello to the bulbs or plant roots on its way to the aquifer (particularly with days like today [3-5 inches of rain]). Also, given that Tulips and many other bulbs and corms (I know Narcissus and Muscari are major exceptions) don't grow appreciable roots until spring, why fertilize 4 months before the plant can use the fertilizer. I have also read that the bone meal in many bulb fertilizers is an inducement to critters to excavate the newly planted bulbs. Finally, since new bulbs are fully formed plants in embryonic form, any fertilizer will have a negligible effect on the first year's bloom. I do add compost to the holes/rows when planting, and I do fertilize by top dressing when growth emerges and again after bloom fade to feed the actively growing plants and provide for the next year's show. Any thoughts?

Skip MNZ4 - You seem to have covered everything pretty well. However, you might wish to consider the following as well. Bulbs benefit from low nitrogen fertilizer lest you get lots of nice foliage at the expense of bloom. True, nitrogen does move readily downward in the soil, especially course, well drained soils. Phosphorous and Postassium, on the other hand, bind with the soil particles and pretty much stay put once applied. If there is any downward migration it is extremely slow. If you have sandy soil, you probably have Potassium poor soil and if you only top dress, then any P and K will generally stay on the surface and never get down to the root system. If you fertilize at planting time, the three elements are just below the roots where the bulbs or corms can take advantage of this supplemental feeding. The bulb or corm is a food storage organ so this year's bloom will use up the energy stored in the bulb or corm. The fertilizer that you lay down this fall will nourish succeeding year's bulbs and corms. If you dig up a crocus corm next summer you will find that this year's corm is defunct and about all that is left is the tunic. However, a new corm has formed on top of this old one. In fact, you might even see some increase. To be sure, there will be an increase of daughter bulbs, offsets, or even 'chips' in daffodils. If you fertilize at planting and again as the plants break the surface in the spring you will be assured of a long lasting, magnificent bloom from year to year. Bone meal is slow release and can be a problem with critters. Suggest you use a slow release bulb food such as a 9-9-6 which is designed to start to release the nutrients when needed by the bulb.

 ? It's November & I've Found Some Bulb bargains! Is There Still Time to Plant?

Kevin - 5 - One of our local garden centers is going out of business and I am wondering whether it is worth purchasing some heavily discounted bulbs. The ground is still workable here in Utah The price is wonderful, but I wonder if the bulbs are dried up. Could I still plant these into containers? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Neil Allen ILZ5 - I'd take a chance with tulips, even in the ground, since they don't seem to require fall root growth for spring bloom. Anything else I think I would pot up and put in a cold frame, if I had one.

Alta 56N(zone2) - Yes. Go for it- and buy plenty, because later when you wish you had, they'll be gone. I have planted tulips in ground frozen two inches down. I chopped out the frozen dirt, planted, and had bloom in spring. Now if I'd thought of it at the time I'd have put down a good thick layer of something for mulch, to slow down the re-freezing just a bit. . Now, I'm quite sure that bulbs will establish and perform much better, if planted at the proper time. That isn't an option here. Take a chance. Enjoy!

 ? How to Get the Most From Your Spring Bulbs At Planting Time? -

Bev Mitchell - 6b - Here's my tip for getting the most bulbs possible into the smaller garden.

  1. Dig a very deep hole (16 -18 " if possible) - make it as wide as you feel like (24" is good)
  2. Place sand (1-2")in the bottom for good drainage
  3. Add some compost(a couple of scoops if you have it) and a little bulb booster (I measure about a handful) Mix into compost.
  4. Place lilium bulbs in the bottom.
  5. Add some soil - you can also put in a bit more compost and bulb booster if you feel that your soil needs it.
  6. Place narcissi and/or tulips in next.
  7. Add some more soil (compost and bulb booster if you want)
  8. Place muscari, reticulata, chiondoxa, etc. (any smaller bulbs)
  9. You should have about an inch of soil of soil to put on top I add blood meal to the top to discourage squirrels from digging in the fresh soil. I always add a mulch layer of shredded leaves to the top.

I get almost continuous blooms well into the late summer if I use oriental lilies. I have also tried allium at the bottom layer and they work well.

Timing is obviously very important since lilium don't arrive until October here in Toronto and many of the bulbs like narcissi and muscari like to be planted earlier in the fall in September. Tulips are more compatible with lilium as the former like to be planted as late as possible. When my other bulbs come and I am waiting for the lilium, I store the bulbs in peat moss in the garage - this keeps them dry and cool. If the fall is getting pretty cold I plant the narcissi and muscari types in a double layer hole and leave the tulips to double up with the lilium.

 ? What Kind of Ground Cover Can I Plant with bulbs?

christine - I'm about to plant 400 bulbs (lilies, iris, tulips, muscari and crocus) in a plot of dirt that is bordered by stone - and totally empty right now. I'm worried about it looking bare when the crocus die back, and later in the summer as the tulips do too - is there a good low plant that will coexist with bulbs?

Jen - CA/9 - I planted 'johnny jump-ups' Violas over my Narcissus paper whites last month, just because I thought they'd look pretty together. Apparently (though I didn't know this at the time), the johnny jump-ups return year after year so they'll die off at about the time my Narcissus go dormant, and then they'll come back up together. Thus, I won't have to worry about watering the Violas when the Narcissus shouldn't be, next Summer.

Amy (VA/Zone 7) - Being a very lazy gardener, one of my favorite things to do is dig one hole but plant several things. When I planted daffodils last year, I dug holes/trenches that were 8" deep, then put in the daffodils & filled the holes until they were only 2-3" deep, then I planted baby perennials that I had grown from seed -- catmint and other low-growing plants. I also dig big holes for shrubs & trees -- like evergreen creeping juniper -- and plant bulbs on the outskirts of the root ball--then the daffodils come up in the spring through the branches and the junipers' branches cover the dying daffodil leaves later on.

Ken - CAzone8-9 - I've used annual alyssum which works very well. Here, it hangs on through the winter and I pull it all up in very early spring as the bulb foliage begins to emerge. Generally, they drop much seed which germinates and remains small until the bulb flowers and foliage die back.

Rosemary - 5 - You can plant all those lovely annuals that will appear in the garden centers in the spring in between the foliage. By the time the bulb greens die, the annuals will take over.

 ? How do I Plant Spring bulbs in containers? -

julie - 5 - I would like to grow a mixture of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths in my patio containers, but I am not sure where to put the containers during the winter(which can last well into March in this area). If I leave them outside, the bulbs may freeze, if I put them in my unheated garage, they may sprout too soon. This is what happened last year. Any suggestions?

hemal - 8 - Some bulbs require winter chilling for them to bloom, so you should check which ones can not take a freeze (like paperwhites). The hyacinths should be fine as long as you still water them occasionally, and especially before the first freeze. Crocus should do well where you are in a pot. You may want to consider planting them with other perennial plants. As getting them to all bloom at the same time, it depends on which varieties you use.

 ? What Do I Do With Bulbs Planted in Containers After They Bloom?

Kate Lykins - 7a - Garden books are always willing to tell how to grow bulbs in containers but a little fuzzy on what happens after they bloom. Being somewhat thrifty, I want to save the bulbs and have them bloom again the next year.

Kirk Johnson Zone9 - I have grown Hyacinths in the same pot for years. I just let the foliage die back. I have planted tulips in tubs this year. I plan on putting the tubs in the greenhouse during the summer so that they will get the heat that they prefer.

 ? Help! It's November and My Bulbs are sprouting! -

Debbie DePalma - I just planted some bulbs in early October. They are already popping up! What damage will this cause to bulb? Will they come up again in spring? What action do I take?

Neil Allen ILZ5 - I wouldn't take any action for now. Were daffodils the only bulbs you planted? Some top growth in the fall is normal for grape hyacinths and some other bulbs.

Most sources I've seen recommend relatively early planting for narcissus, to allow for root formation.

David J. Robson - Don't worry about bulbs sprouting now. That happens with many spring blooming bulbs planted in the fall, when the weather conditions are right. When the temperatures turn cold, growth will stop. You'll probably notice that the leaves will turn yellow, then brown and shrivel. Not to worry. The bulb should have plenty of energy for next year's growth. In fact, a true bulb, such as a daffodil, is mainly leaf material.

Did you really plant the bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep? Usually they sprout when planted on the shallow side, and not really deep.

Don't forget to mulch the bulbs either way for the winter. Some bulbs, such as grape hyacinths, produce foliage in the fall in the first place. Don't worry about them.

 ? My Tulips Are Coming Up in January!! What Should I Do?

D. Schuman - 5 - This strange weather has caused my tulips to be completely confused...they are coming up !! I had/have about 3 inches of mulch over them and I can now see the tops of the plants peeking out... of course, now our weather has turned really cold without any snow cover. Can I save them ? Should I worry about them ?

Skip MNZ4 - You're kind of in spot, all right. If you don't cover them up to protect them from the frost and it freezes for a few hours or overnight that's probably the end of your spring show. If you add mulch to protect them they may be OK. Usually, when the temperature drops down to 32 degrees F stem elongation really slows down but doesn't stop altogether. You might add 6 to 8 inches of protective mulch during the cold period and then when warmer temperatures return, take it off. Leave the mulching material nearby. If cold weather returns the protective material will be handy to get to.

Andie Rathbone Mo/Zone 6A - This has happened to me in past years. I cover them up and hope for the best. I've never lost them, if they are just starting to peek out of the ground. I got zapped last year when about a third of my daffodils had buds, and we got a late freeze.

Rena - 7a - My crocus are blooming! They are very tiny, orange-yellow, and planted behind/under shrubs that someone obviously planted AFTER the crocus, do I just mark the spot, wait for foliage to turn brown, then dig up and transplant?

Skip - Crocus naturalize readily. Just mark the spot so you don't accidentally dig them up. Let the tops die down and leave them where they are; they will be happy there for many years to come. I have some in a perennial garden that were planted in 1970 and they are the first to bloom each spring.

 ? Critters Eating My Bulbs! How Do I Stop them?

Janet - OK, Who's digging up all my bulbs and scattering them about my backyard?? I spent hours last week planting them all, and now some lousy little critter, has decided to undo all my hard work and effort. Who is it and what can I do about it? I am in Suburbia - not out in the country. We has possums and squirrels and an occasional stray cat, but no deer or raccoons that I've seen.

ppin - Did you plant your bulbs with Bone Meal ?? Critters have a tendency to dig up bulbs that have been planted with bone meal, especially skunks and raccoons.

I am a Landscape Designer and have found to avoid this you should use Bulb Booster, instead.

Murf - Most likely the squirrels. They're curious to know what's under that freshly turned earth. If its a crocus, scilla, or chionodoxa, or best yet, a tulip - crunch, crunch, gulp! If its a narcissus, punt it. Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the new area - that gives them a snoot full. This has worked for me. I've also laid chicken wire over the planted area and held it down with a few pieces of firewood until the ground froze. They didn't bother again in the spring.

Ellen - I coat my bulbs with bulb dust (a fungicide and sulfur mix??) before planting. This seems to discourage digging by squirrels and rabbits. If bone meal is attracting dogs I use cayenne pepper. If the problem is bulb-eating critters, I use blood meal on the surface. The blood meal and pepper have to be re-applied after it rains.

Andie Rathbone - You've got squirrels and/or rabbits. They LOVE tulip bulbs. Try this:

  1. Dig DEEP - 8". This will discourage them.
  2. If you've really got patience, put chicken wire over the bulb whole.
  3. Treat the area with Ropel (available at garden shops); or try some of the "old wives" remedies - Human hair, cat feces, etc. in the beds.

Skip MNZ4 - Indeed, several rodents find bulbs, especially tulips, a tasty morsel. It is unlikely that a rabbit will be able to excavate the 6 to 8 inches of soil in order to get at the bulbs. However, mice, voles, and squirrels will certainly get them, especially if they are freshly planted and the soil is nice and loose. Have you noticed that after you have finished digging in your garden or yard, the squirrels will show up and poke around to see what's new? There are a couple of things that can be done to keep these guys from eating your prize bulbs. One way to thwart the squirrels is to plant the bulbs en masse, backfill about half the soil, lay chicken wire mesh over the bed, and then finish backfilling. The mesh shouldn't be so small that the new growth can't come up through the openings in the wire. Or, you can just place the wire mesh on top of the ground and then remove it in the spring. However, it would not be surprising to see a gaggle of squirrels show up with their wire cutters. For the smaller bulbs you could use a smaller mesh. There is no problem with Narcissus because the bulb contains toxic alkaloids and a glycoside which these critters don't like the taste of.

Traute, the BioGardener - I give squirrels something they like better. About the time that I plant bulbs, you can find lots of acorns. Scatter those in your garden to keep the squirrels busy and they'll forget about the bulbs because the acorns are easier to get. Also trample the soil over the bulbs to compact it, cover with a layer of dry leaves and then with evergreen branches. It makes the digging too difficult and the needles which fall off the branches will give the bulbs radiant colors.

Marisue - I have tried moth balls and red pepper flakes, that seems to keep them away.

 ? How do I Grow Bulbs From Seed?

neil s roxburgh - Because of quarantine restrictions in Australia, I must grow bulbs from seed would like to acquire seed of any variety of Fritallaria, Trillium, Arisema, unusual South African bulbs. Any ideas where I can obtain seed of any of these, anywhere in the world.

Neil Allen ILZ5 - Suggest that you try the Seed Guild, one of the sponsors of the forums. A search using the term "bulbous" turned up some of what you mention (various Fritallarias and Eucomis), and I'm fairly sure you'll find Trillium there too, along with a fair amount of oddities/rarities.

Terry Smale - The best source for fritillaria plus some species in the other genera that you mention is J & J Archibald in Wales UK. The South African bulb seeds can be obtained from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa. You will find that both sources are much more comprehensive and cheaper than the Seed Guild, but I don't think that they are on the net. Note that most Trilliums are difficult to germinate because they require a double period of dormancy (freezing), which I guess means some sort of fridge technique in Australia.

Ian Black - Silverhill seeds can be contacted by e-mail, at You could also try B&T World seeds. They do have a web page at:

 ? What Bulbs Should I Grow in the Shade?

Jen - CA/9 - Are there seasonal bulbs that would do well in partial or mostly shade? I'm running out of sunny places to plant bulbs. If so, what are some of your favorites?

Neil Allen ILZ5 - Two that I'm trying that are supposed to do well in at least partial shade are camassia -- camass or quohash and Frittilaria melagris (guinea-hen flower). Of the two, the fritillaria is supposed to like shade more. I've also got an Arum italicum. If you like the idea of exotic jack-in-the-pulpit kinds of things, there are a number of arums and asarums from Asia that might do well where you are. I believe that you could also try Anemone de Caen, and Anemone nemerosa. If the shade comes from deciduous trees many early bulbs might work. You might investigate various erythroniums -- trout lilies or dog-tooth violets.

Kim Fisher - Z6a/PA - I like English wood hyacinths (scilla campanulata). My Van Bourgondien catalog lists them for zones 4-9.

Mary Sue - CA9 -

Two that do well for me year after year are Hyacinthoides hispanica (formerly Scilla hispanica or campanulata or Endymion hispanicus) or Spanish Bluebell and Leucojum aestivum or Snowflake. The latter is especially nice since it is in bloom a long time and the deer that visit my garden and enjoy bulbs that they are reported not to like have never eaten it.

A small summer blooming corm from South Africa that was Lapeirousia cruenta when I grew it from seed and I believe now is known as Anomatheca laxa has orange red flowers with a darker splotch. It blooms the first or second year from seed and I usually just scatter seed and have new ones to join the old ones. It's small so can mix with other things. I also grow a white one and interplant them.

I planted some Freesia alba bulbs five or six years ago and they have naturalized everywhere in my garden. Some have planted themselves in the shade and they seem to bloom there as well as in the sun.

Tulbaghia violacea or Society Garlic seems to manage in part shade although it may do a little better in sun as does Scilla peruviana. The latter does not bloom every year but is spectacular for a long time as it slowly opens and is only dormant for a brief period.

There are California native bulbs you might try like Brodiaea jolonensis, Brodiaea terrestis, and Allium dichlamydeum. I grow Calochortus albus, C. amabilis, C. tolmiei, and C. umbellatus and they all do well in the shade or part shade.

There is a native bulb that grows here in Northern California that I am fond of, Chlorogalum pomeridianum or Soap Plant. It grows near forests and blooms in shade if the deer don't find it. The flowers open late afternoon and close the next day, but the plant blooms for many weeks in summer and is very dainty when in bloom and has interesting wavy leaves.

Most of these bulbs come from Mediterrean climates with wet mild winters and dry summers. You might also try Cyclamen which is recommended for shade.

 ? Is Fertilizing With Bone Meal a Waste?

judi z./(RI/Z6) - For years I put a handful of bone meal in each planting hole for my bulbs. Allan Haskell, the horticulturist & plantsman told me it's a waste, that the nutritive value is negligible after the processing. What have you heard? And if it is a waste, is there a good alternative to nourish them & give them a good start?

dorie (SC/Z 8b) - I have even worse news than that!!! I have just heard that a lot of what we know about phosphorus being important in stimulating root growth in plants just in not true. Anyway, just use superphosphate instead of bone meal for your bulbs. I, for one, am not letting go of starter fertilizers until I get some more information!!!

Skip MNZ4 - I never thought I'd see the day when fertilizer would be a bone of contention but darn, here it is. If the analysis on the package of bone meal says 5-12-0 and the box weighs five pounds, then (unless the label is false) the contents of the box is 5% Nitrogen (.25 lb), 12% (.6 lb) Phosphorous, and no Potassium. The remainder of the ingredients is inert, filler, dehydrated squeal, moos and presumably useless. If it says 5-12-0 and it ain't then what the heck is it? Armadillo poop? Personally I never use the stuff. I use good old fashioned 5-14-42 on this Potassium poor, sandy glacial outwash plain. And with ample water, plenty of sunshine, stand back!

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