Questions and Answers About Planting Bulbs: From Controlling Squirrels to Forgetting To Plant

Planting bulbs is a traditional fall gardening activity and there's only a few important bits of information you really need to know.

When do I plant the spring flowering bulbs?

Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are planted in late fall.

In my zone 4 garden, I usually plant towards the end of October because I want the ground to be cold enough the bulb will not sprout. (If it sprouts and starts to grow - it won't survive the winter.) If you live in a warmer climate, then my best advice for you is to plant a week later for every zone you're warmer.

Watch the long term weather patterns. With these late falls we're all experiencing, plant bulbs later than normal. You can plant them right before the ground freezes if you have to.

When planting bulbs - how deep do I plant them?

An old rule of thumb says to plant a bulb twice the height of the bulb. So if a bulb is 3 inches tall, then plant it so the base of the bulb is 6 inches deep. (that puts the top of the bulb 3 inches from the surface).

Note that this is a rule of thumb and as this isn't rocket science, a few inches here or there aren't going to make too much of a problem for most of the larger bulbs.

planting bulbs
Tulip 'Pirand'

I forgot to plant!

I forgot to plant mine last fall - can I do it this spring?

Ahh, it depends on whether the bulb is still rock hard - or whether it has gone soft. Generally speaking, if you don't plant them in the fall, they won't survive the winter but the bud inside will die. Having said that - we've all been fooled before and sometimes a bulb will live. Look at it this way. If you don't plant it - it will die for sure.

Stop Squirrels

How do I keep squirrels from eating the bulbs?

The best solution is to heavily water the area after you plant the bulbs. Turn the entire garden zone into a mud bath. And secondly, make sure you pick up *every* bit of bulb debris or tunic that you drop. Squirrels don't like water and they don't like mud. And the water removes the scent of the bulbs from the soil. Removing the tunics and bulb debris does the same thing. (hint: pick up the bulb debris before you water)

Alternate solutions involve a) feeding the squirrels so they're so busy eating peanuts they wont' bother your bulbs 2) soaking the bulbs in a solution containing bitrex - normally sold to keep deer or other animals from eating flowers. 3) putting a layer of hardware cloth over the bulbs but below the surface so squirrels can't dig through the screen. 4) getting a rather hungry cat or energetic dog.

So that's the basic thumb rules for planting bulbs. The main thing to consider though is to simply go and do it. If you want more information on specific bulbs, you might visit my bulb pages at

planting bulbs
Tulip 'Angelique'

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