How to Divide & Plant Bulbs

Overview

Flower bulbs are easy to plant and create a burst of color in the garden from spring through fall, depending on the species planted. Bulbs multiply quickly, so you should divide them every 2 to 3 years to prevent crowding, which decreases flower production. Plant bulbs in the fall just prior to the ground freezing and divide them once they go dormant to decrease damage while digging and moving the plants.

Plant

Step 1

Select a planting location that has well-draining soil and the appropriate light for the type of bulb you are planting. Most summer flowering bulbs grow best in full or partial sunlight conditions, while spring bulbs can tolerate partial shade.

Step 2

Prepare the planting area by working 2 to 3 inches of compost and an application of phosphorus fertilizer into the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches, either with a garden tiller or manually with a pitchfork. Check the package instructions for the amount of phosphorous needed based on the size of the garden area.

Step 3

Test the soil pH to verify that it is 6.0 to 7.0. Mix ground rock sulfur into the soil to lower the pH number or limestone to raise the pH number. Water the soil well and let it rest for two weeks before planting.

Step 4

Dig holes that are 2 to 3 times as deep as the length of the bulbs. Set the bulbs in their holes so the eyes are pointing upward and gently cover them with soil. If you purchased the bulbs, verify the planting depth on the package instructions.

Step 5

Fertilize summer- and fall-blooming bulbs with a 10-10-10 soluble fertilizer at a rate of 7 tbsp. per 10 square feet, split into three monthly applications prior to the approximate bloom date.

Divide

Step 1

Divide spring-blooming bulbs approximately six weeks after flowering is complete in spring. Divide summer and fall blooming bulbs after flowering is complete in fall.

Step 2

Cut the green foliage to a length of 4 to 6 inches and carefully dig up the bulbs by inserting a shovel into the ground around the clump of bulbs and gently prying out the mass.

Step 3

Remove excess dirt from the clump and gently pull the bulbs apart with your hands. True bulbs will pull apart easily, while tubers may require you to cut the individual tubers with a sharp knife.

Step 4

Add a handful of blood meal into the hole the bulbs came out of and replant half of the removed bulbs back into the hole.

Step 5

Plant the remaining bulbs in a different location or give them away. You should plant the bulbs immediately to prevent them from drying out.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Phosphorous fertilizer
  • Garden tiller
  • Pitchfork
  • Soil pH test
  • Ground rock sulfur
  • Limestone
  • Water
  • Shovel
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer
  • Plant clipper
  • Sharp knife
  • Blood meal

References

  • University of Illinois: Bulbs and More
  • University of Minnesota: Dividing and Moving Hardy Bulbs
  • University of Vermont: Bulbs for Spring Bloom
Keywords: plant flower bulbs, grow flower bulbs, divide flower bulbs

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.