How to Get Bulbs to Flower


Bulbs are almost always a success in the garden the first year after planting. The bulb holds the embryonic plant and flower bud within itself. As long as it's watered and receives some sunlight, it will bloom. The challenge is to get bulbs to flower year after year in the garden.

Bulbs in Beds

Step 1

Choose a location that meets the bulbs' requirements. Some bulbs, such as gladiolus and amaryllis, require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Others like cyclamen and dog's tooth violet prefer the shade. Asiatic and Oriental lilies prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Spring bulbs like tulips, crocus and freesia will do well planted underneath deciduous trees, if the trees don't leaf out until after the bulbs have died back.

Step 2

Dig the soil to a depth 12 inches. Add a 4-inch layer of compost and organic matter. Spread a slow release fertilizer over the area per package directions. Dig again and mix all of the ingredients thoroughly.

Step 3

Plant the bulbs at the required depth. For example: Plant crocus 2 inches, daffodils 4 inches, tulips 4 inches and gladiolus 2 inches deep. Plant amaryllis so the tip of the bulb is above ground.

Step 4

Water until the soil is drenched. Supplement rainfall with watering if the bulbs don't receive an inch a rain per week.

Step 5

Feed the bulbs after they've flowered but before the leaves have died back with a water soluble fertilizer.

Step 6

Wait to remove the yellow and brown leaves from the bulbs until after the plant has died back. This is the most important step. The leaves provide energy to the bulb to produce next year's flowers. If you remove the leaves too soon, the bulb won't flower. Wait until the leaves have withered.

Naturalized Bulbs

Step 1

Plant daffodils in a lawn. They will be finished blooming and be ready to be cut back by the time the lawn is ready to mow. Take care of the daffodils and they'll multiply year after year.

Step 2

Throw the bulbs out in a random pattern onto the lawn. Covering a smaller area more closely works better than spreading the bulbs out over a large area. Plant them where they land.

Step 3

Mix equal parts potting soil and compost in a bucket. Add slow release fertilizer per package directions.

Step 4

Dig a hole 6 inches deep and 3 inches wide. Fill the hole with 2 inches of the mixture above, which is about a good handful. Plant the bulb and cover it with the removed soil.

Step 5

Provide supplemental watering if it doesn't rain an inch per week.

Tips and Warnings

  • Daffodil bulbs are poisonous, so don't plant them near the vegetable garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Soil amendments
  • Rake
  • Fertilizer


  • "The Country Garden"; Charlie Ryrie; 2003
  • "Garden Ideas"; Carol Spier and Warren Schultz; 1996

Who Can Help

  • Backyard Landscape Ideas: Build a Flower Bed
Keywords: grow flowering bulbs, growing flower bulbs, naturalize daffodil bulbs

About this Author

Katie Rosehill holds an MBA from Arizona State University. She began her writing career soon after college and has written website content and e-books. Her articles have appeared on, eHow, and GolfLinks. Favorite topics include personal finance - that MBA does come in handy sometimes - weddings and gardening.