How to Prepare for Planting Perennial Bulbs


Perennial bulbs present one of the most phenomenal planting options for the home gardener. Each bulb contains everything needed to create a beautiful blooming plant. Bulbs contain flowers, stems and leaves packed into a compact and portable housing that stores energy for spring growth. Bulbs might be tough, but these plants require a prepared planting bed to thrive, grow and multiply. Learning how to prepare for planting perennial bulbs involves evaluating the current soil condition, loosening the garden soil to allow for free root growth and adding amendments to the soil.

Step 1

Locate the perfect spot for your perennial bulbs based on their particular needs. Consider available sunlight, soil conditions, moisture needs and visibility with competing plants when choosing this location.

Step 2

Prepare the planting bed by removing any weeds, digging deeply around their stems. Try to remove all of the roots and discard them with your yard waste (not the compost pile). Remove rocks or other debris that might get in the way of growing plants.

Step 3

Place the spade of the shovel on the edge of the garden bed and step down on the shovel. Lift the dirt from the ground and flip the shovel over. This movement is called "turning over the garden." This loosens the soil, making it easier for planting and encouraging root spreading of plants. Turn over the entire garden bed and break up clumps of soil using the shovel.

Step 4

Spread a layer of compost or peat moss across the top of the garden to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Turn over the garden again, working the organic matter into the top soil layers. Some bulbs require planting depths of 8 inches, so be sure to dig deeply to incorporate the soil additive down to 10 inches.

Step 5

Smooth the garden surface with a rake to even the soil. The garden bed is ready to be planted.

Step 6

Examine the perennial bulbs carefully. Look for areas with a soft, squishy feel. This indicates areas of rot; bulbs with such areas should be discarded. Healthy bulbs usually have a budlike eye or sprout that indicates new growth.

Step 7

Use the sharp utility knife or pruning clippers to cut off any damaged bulb areas. Slice or cut straight down and try to remove the entire damaged area without removing too much of the bulb. The retained portion of the bulb should always contain at least one eye or sprout.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Peat moss or compost
  • Rake
  • Perennial bulbs
  • Utility knife
  • Pruning clippers


  • University of California, Davis
  • Colorado State Cooperative Extension Service
  • Cornell University

Who Can Help

  • Bulb Growing Information from the University of Illinois
Keywords: perennial bulbs, planting bulbs, garden preparation

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.