UC Master Gardeners

Plant bulbs now for a spring kaleidoscope of color

UC Master GardenersDecember 14, 2012 

  • Got a gardening question?

    Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or e-mail mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu.

I love seasons! I look forward to the spectacular fall colors and the crisp winter mornings with frost blanketing our landscape.

But I will be the first to admit I need to see the kaleidoscope of colors my spring bulbs bring each year! After months of rain, I want to see the bright green leaves poking through the soil.

It is still not too late to plant bulbs for spring color, but you will want to plant now as they will need a certain amount of chill hours to bloom in the spring. Most bulbs need 12 to 14 weeks of chilling temperatures, below 45 degrees, to break dormancy to bloom.

If you live on the coast, you may even need to place your bulbs in your refrigerator drawer, separate from fruit, to obtain the required chill hours.

The important thing is to get your bulbs in the soil as soon as possible. Storing bulbs out of the soil all winter will cause them to wither and die. You can even plant bulbs in containers with potting soil, just make sure to plant away from the edge of the pots, where they will freeze.

When you buy your bulbs, there will be planting instructions on the packaging. However, a basic rule of thumb is to dig a hole two to three times the bulb’s width and a depth of about 4 to 6 inches for hyacinths and tulips; about 6 to 8 inches for daffodils. Set the bulb root-end down and fill in with soil.

If you have a problem with gophers, you may consider planting in gopher cages or in containers above grounds. If you do plant in containers, make sure you water occasionally so the bulbs do not dry out.

There are no deer-proof flowers or rodent-proof bulbs. Although daffodils have been known to be deer resistant, if a deer is hungry enough, all your hard work will become their lunch. So take a few moments this holiday season to relax and enjoy your garden. Your efforts will be rewarded with beautiful spring color.

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