How to Start Plants from Bulbs

A bed of crocuses image by Makio Kusahara/


Bulbs include plants that grow from rhizomes or corms such as irises and crocuses. A bulb holds within it everything necessary for a plant to grow, including the flower buds and leaves. The most popular bulbs are spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Plant these bulbs in the fall so you have plenty of bright flowers come spring and early summer.

Step 1

Prepare to plant the bulb as directed on the packaging. Plant most spring bulbs in autumn six to 12 weeks before the first frost date in your area. Plant summer bulbs, such as dahlias, in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Step 2

Choose a well-drained bed with partial to full sun. Improve drainage by working compost into the soil to raise the bed 2 to 3 inches.

Step 3

Dig a hole four times as deep as the bulb's width. Space holes for small bulbs 2 inches apart and holes for large bulbs 6 inches apart.

Step 4

Sprinkle bulb fertilizer into the hole before planting. Cover the fertilizer with a thin layer of soil so the bulb is not in direct contact.

Step 5

Place the bulb in the hole root side down and pointed side up. Cover it with soil and tamp it lightly with your hands.

Step 6

Water the bed thoroughly after planting. Keep the soil moist but not soggy thereafter.

Step 7

Cover fall-planted bulbs with a 3-inch layer of straw mulch to preserve moisture and insulate the soil. Surround spring-planted bulbs with bark mulch to preserve moisture and prevent weeds.

Tips and Warnings

  • Overly wet soil will lead to bulb rot.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Spade
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • University of Illinois Extension
  • Berkeley Extension
Keywords: planting bulbs, starting spring bulbs, growing rhizomes

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. 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.

Photo by: Makio Kusahara/