Q. I bought crocus, daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs and right now is the correct time to plant them. How deep do I plant each type of bulb? And what should I do about fertilizing them?
— J. H. of Fairview Heights
A. Crocus bulbs should be planted 2 inches deep (from the surface of the soil to the neck of the bulb) and placed about 3 to 4 inches apart.
Daffodils should be planted in a bed that has been dug out to at least 12 inches but the bulbs should planted only 6 inches deep, 6 to 8 inches apart. Place the base of the bulb in firm contact with the soil as air spaces may cause the bulb to rot.
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Tulips should be planted 4 to 6 inches deep, 4 to 9 inches apart. If you plant tulips too deep, they weaken as the stems try to push upward through the soil and produce small flowers or none at all. Bulbs planted too shallow can be heaved upward through the soil and the bulb may freeze and die. Give tulip bulbs a half twist, like you are screwing in a light bulb.
Hyacinths are the most fragrant of all the spring bulbs. Hyacinths prefer a light sandy soil that drains easily and warms earlier in spring. Dig a hole at least 8 inches deep and mix bulb fertilizer into the soil. Then plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Hyacinths usually “run out’ faster than the other bulbs and have to be replanted with new bulbs after a few years.
A bulb fertilizer works for all the bulbs, but since it is a chemical the fertilizer particles should not touch any part of the bulb as it will burn the bulb tissue and diseases can easily get started and kill the bulb quickly.
If you take good care of your bulbs, you will need to divide and replant them every three to four years. The bulbs will indicate this as the size of the flowers will get smaller every year and finally not bloom.
Q. When should I dig up my gladiolus bulbs and tuberous begonias?
— K.P. of Collinsville
A. The tender perennials need to be dug at their own special time. Gladiolus should be dug when the foliage begins to fade, usually after a frost. Tuberous begonias should be dug right when a fall frost is predicted. Caladiums and elephant ears should be dug the same way.
Dahlias are another tender perennial and should be cut back to 3 to 4 inches after a light frost. Then lift the plants being careful not to break many of the fleshy roots.
Cannas do not need to be dug up until after a hard frost. Cut back the tops to 4 inches and let them air-dry in a warm spot for one to two weeks. Their roots hold best at a 45- to 50-degree location.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to email@example.com.
Do it now
TIDY UP: Remove all the plant debris, which has died back, to keep diseases and insects from overwintering for next spring.
TEST SOIL: Since this is a slower time for labs that test soil, you will get the results back in time to make any amendments yet this fall.