Instructions for Planting Flower Bulbs


Flower bulbs reward a gardener's patience in a wide variety of beautiful ways. Whether you plant spring bloomers or add summer bulbs to your landscaping, bulbs add color and extend the blooming season in your yard. Simple soil preparation and planting steps are all you need to add bulbs to your garden.

Step 1

Order or purchase bulbs well in advance of bloom time. In most growing zones (generally 3 through 9), spring-blooming bulbs need to spend late fall and winter in the ground in order to bloom. In the absence of eight to 10 weeks of cold weather, they will fail to form roots needed for complete growth. Summer bulbs, on the other hand, most often require spring planting and late-summer removal, to avoid the cold. In the warmest Southern states, spring bulbs may need to be treated like summer ones.

Step 2

Provide hospitable soil for your bulbs. Soil amendments, such as sand, gravel, peat moss or other organic matter, provide necessary drainage. In very rocky, chronically wet or heavy clay soil, bulbs are prone to rot. Put bulbs in planters or pots lightening your soil is particularly difficult. Whether bulbs are planted in the ground or in pots, add bone meal or other bulb food to insure good nutrition. Side-dress established year-round tulip or daffodil plantings every spring with bulb food, to sustain good growth.

Step 3

Start your bulbs right side up. Most bulbs resemble an onion in shape. The narrow pointy end (daffodils may have more than one) is the source of upward leaves and flowers. The flatter end usually shows a circular mark or collection of shreddy wisps; these are the remnants of last season's roots, and this end goes down into the soil. Corms, the word used for several kinds of summer bulbs, may be a little harder to interpret; ask your local nursery if you cannot be certain of bottom and top. Remember, also, that bulbs are programmed to grow. Even those planted upside down by new gardeners usually remedy the problem and grow as they should. They may come up a bit later than your neighbors', but they will grow.

Step 4

Plant bulbs at the depths required by your climate. Most small fall-planted spring bulbs, like crocus, snowdrops or scilla, are planted between 3 and 4 inches deep. Plant large bulbs, like daffodils, tulips, crown imperials and other spring bloomers, at depths of 6 to 8 inches, unless your local county extension recommends deeper planting to prevent freezing.

Step 5

Provide post-bloom care as required to maintain your bulbs. In the case of most spring bulbs, this will mean letting at least part of the foliage die off naturally after the bulb has accumulated nutrition it will need to bloom next year. "Lift"---remove and store---warm-climate spring bulbs and nearly all summer bulbs and corms (gladiolus, canna, begonia), as needed in your area. Store lifted bulbs in a dry cool area until they can be replanted to bloom again.

Step 6

Protect bulbs planted in pots to ensure next season's blooms. Sink pots into the ground or a trench of wood chips at the first sign of frost, to "winter over." This provides the cold needed for next spring's growth, while preventing the soil in small pots from freezing solid, bulbs and all.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some animals think bulbs are delicious! If you are just beginning to plant bulbs, check with your local county extension service or a local nursery to find out your best choices. When in doubt, plant daffodils; apparently, they taste bad to nearly all wildlife, from moles to deer.

Things You'll Need

  • Flower bulbs
  • Trowel
  • Bone meal or bulb food
  • Soil amendments, like sand, gravel or organic material (as needed)
  • Water


  • American Meadows: How to Plant Flower Bulbs
  • University of Illinois: Bulbs and More
Keywords: planting flower bulbs, instructions, tips and strategies

About this Author

Janet Beal holds a Harvard B.A. in English and a College of New Rochelle M.S in early childhood education. She has worked as a college textbook editor, HUD employee, caterer, and teacher. She is pleased to be part of Demand Studios' exciting community of writers and readers.