How to Grow a Bulb Garden


Bulbs produce a vast variety of flowers, many of which bloom in the spring and summer months. With just a little care and knowledge, you can have a profusion of flowers for many months. One of the best parts of growing bulbs is that they come back year after year, with little attention. Daffodils and narcissus are common spring-blooming bulbs, while tulips, gladiolas, cannas and dahlias typically bloom in midsummer. Bulbs also produce attractive foliage; you can use them along the borders of garden beds or scattered throughout your yard. You can grow them in pots and even plant them in your lawn or wooded areas. The basic directions for growing most types of bulbs are the same.

Step 1

Prepare your planting area in summer for fall planting by digging the soil to loosen it. Dig in compost or manure to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Use 3 bushels of organic matter for each 100 square feet of garden. Then dig in 1 lb. of low-nitrogen fertilizer for every 100 square feet.

Step 2

Dig holes for your bulbs that are the appropriate distance apart (allow 4 to 6 inches for most bulbs) and the correct depth---plant smaller bulbs shallower than larger bulbs. For example, plant tulips and daffodils about 5 inches deep; plant hyacinth and other smaller bulbs only 1 inch deep. If you purchase bulbs in a bag at your nursery, it will include directions about the correct planting depth.

Step 3

Plant your bulbs with the pointed end upward, and then fill in the planting holes with the soil you have dug out. Water thoroughly and keep the area moist but not soggy throughout the growing season.

Step 4

Control pests such as mice and squirrels by laying wire mesh or chicken wire over the planting area. If you use wire mesh, remove it when the bulbs begin to sprout. You can leave chicken wire in place, because the holes are generally large enough for the plants to grow through.

Step 5

Cut off spent flowers to conserve the bulb's energy, but leave foliage on the plants until it dies back. Then cut it to the ground (for many types of bulbs, the foliage will not die until later in the summer).

Step 6

Cover the soil around your bulbs with 2 to 4 inches of compost or other mulch in the fall, and then remove it in the spring.

Step 7

Dig up bulbs after they finish flowering every 2 to 3 years and separate them. Store them in a cool place, such as a root cellar or garage, or in your refrigerator if you live in an area that has warm winters.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not eat bulbs or allow children or pets to eat them.

Things You'll Need

  • Sunny area with well-draining soil
  • Compost or manure
  • Low-nitrogen fertilizer
  • Trowel or bulb planting tool
  • Wire mesh or chicken wire (optional)


  • Cornell University
Keywords: bulbs, daffodils, tulips, narcissus

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.