Plant More Bulbs!

by Paul James

Sales of spring-flowering bulbs – tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and more – have been declining nationwide in recent years, and I can’t for the life of me understand why. After all, we’re talking about gorgeous flowers that are easy to plant, even easier to care for, in most cases come back year after year, and cost precious little coin. Why then, aren’t more and more people taking advantage of the many attributes of bulbs?

Is it because aging gardeners (a group I’m now a member of) think that planting bulbs is too difficult? Perhaps. But c’mon, preparing a planting hole with a bulb planter or trowel is pretty simple, and even simpler with a bulb-planting auger attached to a drill.

Is it because homeowners think bulbs require too much maintenance? Maybe. But bulbs are about as maintenance free as any plant could possibly be. Fertilize them just as green growth begins to emerge, and water them during dry spells. That’s about all there is to it.

Is it because the price of bulbs seems high? That’s hard to imagine. Bulbs are a bargain, the best bargain in the entire world of plants. Think about it. A dozen daffodils retails for less than ten bucks. That’s less than the price of many one-gallon perennials. And instead of one plant you get 12. In two years, those 12 become might become 24, in three years 36, and so on.

Is it because bulbs have lost their appeal? Not a chance. Bulb festivals in New York, Michigan, Utah, Iowa, Kansas, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere continue to draw huge crowds.

So why have bulbs sales been declining? Well, I’m convinced the reason is rather simple: people just forget when to plant them. Bulbs require a chilling period in the ground, which means they must be planted in October through November, a time when most folks – even many diehard gardeners – have put their gardens to bed and called it quits until spring.

Those are the same people I hear complaining every spring – as they walk through their neighborhood or stroll through a park -- about how they missed the opportunity to plant bulbs in their own gardens the previous year. Don’t be one of those people. Mark your calendar now for October 15, and make it a point this fall to plant more bulbs. Lots and lots of bulbs.