BULBS 101: Planting and Planning

By: Shelby Baker – Communications Intern

With the newest Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB) fundraiser, BULBSCAPE, coming up, you might be curious to know more about bulbs. Whether you are new to bulbs or a seasoned bulb gardener, here are some quick facts about bulbs and how to plant them!

Getting Started:

Once you have your bulbs picked out and a plot in your garden to plant them, you’re ready to begin. For those who are new to planting bulbs, the strange appearance of these future flowers may be a little off-putting. While preparing these slightly unattractive plants (because let’s face it, they look like garlic cloves you find in your mother’s kitchen) for planting, you might be a little skeptical that they will bloom into a gorgeous garden of flowers. Although they might look like something out of the kitchen like garlic cloves or onions, bulbs are still in fact plants. So try not to worry because these ugly ducklings will eventually bloom into attractive flowers including Tulips, Daffodils, Tiger Lilies and Hyacinths, but first they need some planning and proper planting!

Identifying Your Bulbs:

One quick fact about bulbs is that they spend the entirety of their lives underground storing water and nutrients they need to bloom later. Two true types of bulbs, turnicate and imbricate, are told apart by the coating that surrounds them. If the coating is flakey and paper-like then your bulb is a turnicate bulb. This paper-like substance helps to protect bulbs against elements that cause damage. The other type of bulb does not have any coating to protect it, which makes it an Imbricate bulb. So now that you are able to identify which bulb is which, you need to know how to plant them!

Turnicate Bulbs

Turnicate Bulbs

Imbricate Bulb

Imbricate Bulb



Turnicate bulbs (pictured left) have an onion or garlic like coating on the outside of their skin to protect them from drying out. Imbricate bulbs (pictured right) do not contain a protective coating over their skin.




Planting A Future Garden:

Planting bulbs might sound like an intimidating task, but with a little preparation your garden will look great when it’s blooming season. The first thing you need to know about planting your bulbs is, which end is up! The bottom of a bulb is usually flat-like with a few dry roots stretching out. This is the end that you want to face downward into the soil. The top of the bulb is usually pointed or rounded out from the base of the bulb. Since this is the end where flowers will stem, you want this part of the bulb pointed upwards. Some bulbs can be planted downwards as well, so make sure to refer to the instructions on the package to know for sure how you should be planting your bulbs.

BulbOnce you have established which way to plant your bulb you will then need to judge the depth of the hole to dig. The hole you will be placing the plant in should be roughly two times the size of the bulb itself. In other words, if your bulb is two inches long you will want to plant it as deep as four inches. It is recommended that your soil has a pH of six to seven for optimum bulb health. Also, although not necessary, you may add a layer of fertilizer underneath your bulb to help feed it more during dormancy as well. Just make sure you add a layer of dirt between the bulb and fertilizer.

Preparing For A Season Of Bulbs:

After understanding what type of bulb you have, figuring out how to plant it and measuring out your hole depth, you are finally ready to plant your bulbs! However, the key to having your bulbs bloom is to understand which seasonal bulb you have. If you have spring bulbs you will need to plant them in the fall. If you have fall bulbs then you can plant them in the spring for a beautiful garden during the summer and fall months. Bulbs are planted a season in advance to give their roots time to spread out and grow. By better understanding which seasonal bulb you have you can guarantee that your garden will look great by the following season. Just remember to hang on to your bulb packets, or create signs to place next to the flowers, while they are in dormancy. This will help you to prepare for the following seasons by showing you which flowers bloomed best and what flowers you planted where.The addition of any bulb will certainly add color and gorgeousness to your garden and home. For the best results make sure to pay attention to the packaging and directions!

Want to know more about bulbs? Make sure to check in on the KAB blog throughout the upcoming weeks. We will be sharing more on bulbs and lead up to the unveiling of KAB’s, Bulbscape!

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