Care for Flower Bulbs


Flowering bulbs come in two main varieties. Spring bulbs include flowers such as hyacinth, daffodil and tulip. These hardy bulbs bloom in spring, then lay dormant throughout summer and winter. Summer bulbs include true bulb plants such as lilies, as well as plants with bulb-like root structures such as iris and dahlia. Some summer bulbs are hardy and survive cold weather, while other are tender and must be stored indoors. Caring for the flower bulbs properly helps ensure they have a long life.

Spring Bulbs

Step 1

Fertilize spring bulbs in the fall six weeks before the first expected frost. Apply 5 tbsp. of 10-10-10 analysis, water-soluble fertilizer to every 10 square feet of bulb bed. Apply 2 cups of bone meal to the same area at the time of fertilization.

Step 2

Water the bulbs thoroughly after fertilizing in the fall, so the soil is evenly moist but not soggy. Continue to water as needed when the ground is not frozen to maintain soil moisture.

Step 3

Lay a 3-inch layer of mulch over the bed once the ground begins to freeze. This retains moisture and prevents winter damage to the bulbs.

Step 4

Fertilize a second time in spring once the flowers break dormancy and begin growing leaves. Apply 5 tbsp. per every 10 square feet of bed, using the same 10-10-10 fertilizer used in fall.

Step 5

Water the bulbs throughout spring and summer as needed to keep the soil moist. Once-weekly watering that moistens the soil to a 6-inch depth is sufficient.

Step 6

Cut off the flower stalk at the base once the blooms wither in spring, using shears. Cut off the remaining foliage once it has wilted and died back naturally, approximately six weeks after flowering.

Summer Bulbs

Step 1

Fertilize summer bulbs monthly while they are producing foliage or flowers, usually from spring until the first fall frost. Apply 7 tbsp. of 10-10-10 analysis, water-soluble fertilizer per every 10 square feet of bed.

Step 2

Water the bulbs weekly throughout the spring, summer and fall. Water enough to moisten the soil to a 6-inch depth when you stick your finger into the soil.

Step 3

Lay a 2-inch layer of mulch over the summer bulbs in spring. Mulch preserves soil moisture and prevents weeds.

Step 4

Cut off the flower stalks at the base with shears once the flowers have withered. Leave the foliage in place until it dies back naturally, usually after the first fall frost, then cut it off at the soil level.

Step 5

Dig tender bulbs, such as dahlia and canna, once the foliage begins to die back or after the first fall frost. Dig around the bulbs, taking care not to nick them, then slide the trowel under them and lift them from the ground. Store them in boxes of slightly moist peat moss in a 40- to 50-degree-Fahrenheit room until you're ready to replant in spring.

Tips and Warnings

  • Bulb needs differ by plant variety, so always check for the specific requirements for the type of bulb you are growing.

Things You'll Need

  • Water-soluble 10-10-10 fertilizer
  • Bone meal
  • Mulch
  • Shears
  • Trowel


  • University of Illinois Extension: Bulbs & More--Planting & Care
Keywords: summer bulb care, spring bulb care, growing flower bulbs

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.