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Bulb Growing Guide

In this guide we will be going over the basics of growing bulbs, water forcing bulbs, proper planting times, and more! For answers to specific questions, speak with a Garden Seventeen sales associate today!

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How to Grow Spring Blooming Bulbs

Most (if not all bulbs) need a period of darkness and cold temperatures to prompt them to grow and flower, so now is a good time to get your bulbs ready for planting. In Central Texas most bulbs can be planted between late September to early December for best results. 

Bulbs can be planted in a variety of places from mixed borders and flower beds, to pots and containers. They do best planted in full sun to partial shade, but some will tolerate shade. The shade will eventually diminish the blooms. You can also plant early blooming bulbs under deciduous trees like pecans, which don’t leaf out until mid-Spring.

Step 1) Pre-chilling:
Some bulbs (like Tulips and Hyacinth) require pre-chilling since we don’t get cold enough temperatures in Austin for as long as they need to be chilled. Put them in mesh bag in the refrigerator for 6-8 weeks prior to planting. Keep them away from apples while in the fridge because they emit a gas that inhibits the bulb growth. 

Step 2) Planting:
Plant bulbs at least 2 times deep as they are tall in well-draining soil with the pointed side up. If planting in ground, you can use a bulb planter or long trowel to make sure they get deep enough. Throwing a handful of bone meal at the bottom of the hole gives bulbs a boost for strong stems and beautiful flowers. In containers, make sure the pot has a drainage hole and use rich, loose potting soil when planting. 

Step 3) Spacing:
Bulbs don’t need a ton of room to bloom and they look best when planted in groups. For small bulbs like miniature Daffodils or Muscari, plant them in groups of 5-10 bulbs per square foot. For larger bulbs like Tulips, Alliums, or large Daffodils, plant them in groups of 3-5 per square foot. We recommend placing a name marker next to your bulbs so you don’t forget where and what you put it!

Step 4) Water:
Water in throughly after planting! Water sparingly through winter, typically we get enough rain to sustain them.

Step 5) Spring:
Once the bulb starts producing foliage and a stem, water weekly if no rain is forecasted. They highly benefit from a basic flower fertilizer applied once a month during the growing period. We recommend Max Bloom.

Step 6) After flowering:
Once the flowers are spent, trim the blooms so the plant will divert its energy back into the bulb. The energy will be used for generating food for next years blooms. Additionally, don’t cut the foliage until it turns yellow and withers to the ground because the foliage is also making food for next years blooms!

Follow these steps and enjoy your blooms next spring!

How to Water Force Bulbs to Bloom Indoors

Bulb Forcing: The act of coercing bulbs to bloom outside of their normal conditions by manipulating growing conditions. This is a great way to bring spring color and rays of sunshine inside when the weather outside is still cold and gray. Amaryllis bulbs have long been a Christmas host gift staple and do well as water grown bulbs!
(For detailed info on growing Amaryllis bulbs indoors, scroll to the next section!)

Step 1) Preparation:
You can use any container you like, but the best ones are typically glazed ceramics, tall glass vases, or any glass container that can hold at least 4” of pebbles/marbles/ gravel while still leaving room for a bulb to sit on the top. The most fun containers are glass so you can see the roots grow!

Step 2) Pre-chilling:
Even with water forcing, most bulbs need a period of chilling to break the dormancy they’re currently in. Place them in a mesh bag in the refrigerator and keep them away from apples (they release ethylene gas which inhibits growth). Here’s a short list of varieties that require chilling:

Daffodils: 8-12 weeks
Tulips: 8-12 weeks
Muscari: 8-15 weeks
Snowdrops: 15 weeks
Hyacinth: 12-15 weeks

Smaller daffodils like the Tete a Tete, Thalia, and Paperwhites don’t necessarily need pre-chilling but will have larger and many more blooms. Amaryllis also don’t require chilling.

Step 3) Planting:
Once the pre-chilling period is done, take the bulbs out of the fridge and set them pointy-side up in the container on top of 4” of pebbles/gravel/marbles. Get creative here, you can use anything as long as the roots can easily move around it. Feel free to crowd plenty of bulbs in, when growing in water they don’t need that much room and additional bulbs can help stabilize the others.

Step 4) Watering:
Pour just enough water into the container so that it just barely sits under the level of the growing medium (don’t let the bulb sit in water). As the bulb wakes up, the roots will stretch and grow towards the water. Top off the water as it dries up, but always keep the water level below the bottom the bulb. Only the roots should be wet!

Step 5) Placement:
Keep the container in a room with bright, indirect light and watch the roots form. Over time you will see the leaves and stem grow. Turn the container occasionally to make sure the plant doesn’t lean into the sun. Most bulbs will flower 2-4 weeks after being brought out of the cold storage and should bring you lots of joy inside when it’s still too cold for outdoor blooms.

Here are some graphics to help you out:

Growing Amaryllis Bulbs Indoors

Bold and beautiful, the huge showy flowers of hybrid Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) raise gardeners’ spirits during the cold, gray days of winter. They’re exceptionally easy to grow either in soil or in water with marbles or pebbles. Most varieties will begin blooming six to eight weeks after planting while some can take as long as ten weeks.

In a pot: 

1. Plant your Amaryllis bulb in a heavy 6-8 inch pot with a drainage hole and well-draining potting soil. Pack the soil gently around the bulb until 1/3rd of the bulb remains above the soil line.

2. To trigger growth, place the pot in a location that receives bright, indirect light, and stays around 60-75 degrees.

3. Water sparingly until 2 inches of green growth emerge from the bulb. Once growth begins, water regularly.

4. As the stalk grows, rotate the pot so the plant grows straight and doesn’t bend towards the light. Usually a 1/4 turn every few days does the trick!

In a vase:

1. Fill a vase or deep container with at least 3-4 inches of your favorite colored marbles, gravel, pebbles, or decorative stones.

2. Nestle the amaryllis bulb about 1 inch into the substrate to hold it upright.

3. Using a watering can, add just enough water to hit the bottom of the root system/base of the bulb. If the bulb itself is sitting in water, it can cause rot. 

4. Place in a location that receives bright, indirect light and is the in the 60-75 degree range to trigger growth.

5. As the stalk grows, rotate the pot so the plant grows straight and doesn’t bend towards the light. Usually a 1/4 turn every few days does the trick!

6. Maintain a steady water level in the vase for the roots system, and only add when the water level gets below the base of the bulb.

Once flowers appear, make sure they don’t receive any direct sun so they can last as long as possible. To get the most use out of your flowers, cut the stalk at the base for arrangements that can last several weeks! These make an easy and fun holiday gift and help brighten the grey, dreary days of winter.

Lasagna Bulb Planting Method

The method of layering bulbs with different growing times has been called the Lasagna planting method. This method allows for your flower beds or containers to have beautiful colors all season long! By planting one variety at a singular depth, the blooms will all die off at the same time. Placing later blooming bulbs under a layer of earlier blooming bulbs allows for new flowers to take the old bloomer’s place. Checkout the graphic below!

Here is a fantastic blog post that details how and what to layer for your Lasagna bulb planting!