If you receive your bulbs at the proper time for planting in your Zone, it is best to plant the bulbs as soon as possible. If this cannot be done, remove the bulbs from the packages and place them on a tray with sawdust or damp peat moss. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place that is ventilated well until they can be planted. Do not permit the bulbs to freeze.
Dormant roots usually have no leaves but may have some green tips beginning to show, are shipped in bags with peat moss, and should be planted as soon as possible. If that cannot be done, open the packages in which they came and if the roots appear dry, soak them in warm water for a few hours. Then store the roots in moist peat moss in a very cold but not freezing place. If they cannot be planted in less than 2 weeks, plant them in pots of soil until they can be planted in the ground.
Select an area with good drainage since most plants do not do well in soil that is constantly wet. If water drains from a 1 foot deep by 1 foot wide hole in 10-30 minutes, you’ve found a good area. A hole that drains in less than 10 minutes is too dry; one that takes more than an hour to drain is too wet. All poorly drained or too wet soil can be amended with organic matter and by raising the planting bed by a few inches. Most bulbs that are planted in the Spring require full sun or at least 5-6 hours of sunlight daily. Check the package instructions for more detailed planting requirements.
Bulbs should be planted pointy end up and look best when they are grouped in clusters of an odd number of bulbs. Always loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole where the bulbs are being planted, place the bulbs close together but not touching, cover the bulbs with soil, and water in well. Add some 5-10-5 fertilizer several times during the growing season. In dry conditions, water bulbs deeply so that moisture reaches the roots, especially during times of rapid growth. Place mulch in the planting areas to conserve moisture.
Just as adequate moisture and fertilizer are important during the growing season, it is also important that you always permit the foliage to mature and die off naturally. The leaves provide the food the bulbs need to produce flowers during the next flowering season. Foliage can be cut off at its base once it withers.
Hardy Plants are those that can be left in the ground safely all year, even where frost penetrates deeply into the soil. Most of the beloved bulbs of spring (bulbs planted in the fall) are in this category–crocus, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are the most familiar ones. Lilies and many perennials are also hardy in most zones. It is important to know your hardiness zone so that you can know what is hardy in your garden. The lower the zone number, the colder the zone. For example, zone 2 is colder than zone 3. A plant that is hardy to zone 3, may not overwinter in a zone 2 garden unless given special protection. Bulbs benefit greatly from a 2-4″ deep mulch of shredded bark or hardwood, compost or leaves. Mulch prevents the ground from alternately freezing and thawing, which can heave the bulbs out of the ground during winter. In summer, mulch conserves moisture and suppresses weeds. Wait until the ground freezes before applying a winter mulch to fall-planted bulbs.
Tender Plants are those that can’t survive the cold temperatures in your area. In most colder zones, you must dig up bulbs like begonias, dahlias, and gladioli before fall frost, winter them indoors and plant again in spring.
Of course, in very warm climate zones, some can be left in the garden year round. When brought indoors for the winter, storage temperatures may range from 45°-60°F depending on the type of bulb. Many gardeners treat
them as annuals and replace them each season. If a bulb or perennial is borderline hardy in your area and you must provide protection, apply a thick winter mulch. Bulbs and corms that have a protective papery husk are easy to deal with. Simply dig up in the fall and shake off the soil. If the foliage has not quite died, leave the bulbs upright in a cool spot for a couple of weeks. Cut off the dead foliage and store the bulbs in old nylon stockings or mesh bags in a cool but frost free area. Summer-blooming bulbs with fleshy tubers or roots should be dug before frost and spread out in a shaded spot (like a garage) until the outside of the tuber feels dry. Then lay them in uncovered shallow flats or boxes filled with peat moss, sawdust or vermiculite. Check monthly to make sure they are not drying out and shriveling. They should stay plump until spring planting time, so you may have to sprinkle them with a little water to keep the right moisture.