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How to Plant Bulbs in Northwest Washington

Bulbs are a type of plant that stores its food in the roots. Spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, scilla, hyacinths, crocuses and alliums are usually planted in the fall. Summer-flowering bulbs like gladiolas and dahlias are planted in the spring. Purchase your bulbs as early as possible in order to have a good selection and pick out bulbs that are suitable to northwest Washington's USDA planting zone 8. Always store your bulbs in a cool, dry place between 50 to 60 degrees F.

Remove all weeds and sod from the planting area. Dig your bulb bed to the depth of 12 inches. Loosen up the soil, break up dirt clumps and remove rocks. Do not pick an planting site that is subject to standing water during northwest Washington's rainy season. This will rot your bulbs.

Remove 8 inches of soil from your bulb bed. Lay down 1 inch of sand in the bottom of the bed. This will improve the drainage of the soil and help the bulbs deal with the abundant rainfall of the area. Refill the bulb bed with soil.

Remove the soil again to the proper depth for your bulbs. Dig out soil to a depth of 6 inches if you are planting large bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Remove 2 inches of soil if you are planting small bulbs like crocuses and grape hyacinths.

Sprinkle a thin layer of bone meal or bulb food in the bottom of the bulb bed. Lay out your bulbs in groups rather than formal rows. Clumps of flowering bulbs look more natural in the landscape. Place the bulbs with their noses upwards and their root plates downwards. Space the bulbs 2 to 4 inches apart. For more dramatic clumps, space the bulbs 1/2 an inch from each other. Close spacing of bulbs means that you will have to dig the bed up in 2 to 3 years to deal with overcrowding.

Cover with soil and press firmly down with your hands. Water the bulb bed thoroughly. Do not water again until the bulbs break the surface. When planting spring-flowering bulbs, cover the bulb bed with 1 inch of sawdust to help protect the bulbs from the occasional freezing temperatures that hit northwest Washington.


The term bulb is used to refer to flowers that are not technically bulbs like crocuses, which are corms, and dahlias, which are tubers. The differences are slight and technical, but they are all planted the same way.

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