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The Best Time to Transplant Spring Bulbs

By Desirae Roy ; Updated September 21, 2017

For many gardeners, nothing quite compares to the thrill of spying that first purple or yellow crocus peeking through the melting snow. Spring bulbs bloom in waves, beginning with the crocus and Siberian squill and culminating in the late tulips and daffodils that peak just before the true summer heat sets in. Over the years, bulbs will naturally multiply. By creating daughter bulbs on the mother bulbs, several flowers bloom in the same location where there was originally one. Division and transplanting are required in order to keep flowers looking healthy, robust, and pleasing to the eye each new season.


Fall is the time to dig your spring blooming bulbs for division and transplanting. However, it may be difficult to remember just what kind of flower comes from a bulb that has no foliage and whose blooms are long since faded. Use seed markers, available at garden centers, to mark the location and type of bulb. When fall comes, it will be easier to successfully identify and locate the clumps. Dig carefully in a wide circle around the bulbs to avoid severing any new little offsets that have formed, and lift the entire clump out with a garden spade.


Division of bulbs is a simple process. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinth all create offsets or splits, which are smaller versions of the mother bulb that grow to either side. Simply brush the soil away from the mother bulb and separate the offsets, leaving roots attached to each new bulb or bulb clump that you remove. Very small offsets may take more than one growing season to reach maturity, so they may be grouped together if necessary. Don't be disappointed if all your offsets don't produce flowers the following spring.


Transplant offsets immediately. If the area has not been prepared previously, take the time to cultivate 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost, into the soil to a depth of 12 inches to improve drainage. A slow release fertilizer or bone meal may also be added, at the rate recommended by the manufacturer, to supply food to the bulbs over time. Plant bulbs 3 times as deep as they are tall, and allow 2 inches between for small bulbs, and up to 6 inches between larger ones.


About the Author


Desirae Roy began writing in 2009. After earning certification as an interpreter for the deaf, Roy earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Eastern Washington University. Part of her general studies included a botany course leading to a passion for the natural world.