Planting Spring Bulbs

Reiman Gardens spring tulips in bloom in whites, yellows, oranges and red colors

October is the month to plant spring blooming bulbs. This year Reiman Gardens will plant nearly 47,000 tulips and other bulbs! While planting consists essentially of digging a hole and placing them in the ground pointy side up, there are a few things that can be done to be more successful. Below are a few tips on planting the colorful blooms of tulips, daffodils, or the many other beautiful spring-blooming, fall planted bulbs.

  • Plant anytime in October and continuing all the way until the ground freezes – if you can dig a hole, you can plant bulbs.
  • Site plants in well-drained, organic soil. Nearly all bulbs appreciate good drainage.
  • Typically depth is determined by bulb size. Plant bulbs at a depth equal to 3 times its diameter. This means smaller bulbs are about 3” below the soil surface and larger ones are 6” to 8” deep.
  • Plants look best blooming in drifts and clumps, not lined up like soldiers.
  • Quantity makes a big difference! Larger bulbs look best in groups of at least 10 to 15 and smaller bulbs should be planted in drifts of 25 to 50. The more the better.
  • When planting large drifts of bulbs, dig out a large area, set them all in and cover up. This technique is much easier than individually planting each bulb.
  • No fertilizers are typically needed when planting bulbs. They do quite well in all but the worst of soils with no fertilizer.
  • Be sure to water well after planting and provide about 1” of water a week (if Mother Nature does not provide it) all the way up until the ground freezes.
  • Some bulbs (like tulips and crocus) are frequently dug-up and eaten by rodents. If this rodent pressure is high in your garden, consider protecting your bulbs with fencing, hardware cloth, or repellent products like Ropel™.

While stores are full of the popular tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus, there are many other spring blooming bulbs planted in the fall that are great additions to the Iowa garden, including:

  • Winter Aconite – Eranthis hyemalis
  • Snowdrop – Galanthus nivalis
  • Siberian Squill – Scilla siberica
  • Striped Squill – Puschkinia scilloides
  • Trout lily – Erythronium
  • Grape Hyacinth – Muscari
  • Summer Snowflake – Leucojum aestivum
  • Spanish Bluebell – Hyacinthoides hispanica
  • Crown Imperial – Fritillaria imperialis

Consider planting anyone of these in your garden to introduce color to your early spring garden.

– Prepared by Aaron Steil, Assistant Director