Although Oklahoma gardeners are still dealing with summer-like temperatures, it’s time to get started on some fall gardening activities, including planting spring-flowering bulbs.

Bulbs are a great way to add color to your landscape. What makes them even better is they’re fairly easy to grow. So, whether you’re a novice or seasoned gardener, bulbs are a great choice.

Typically, bulbs go into the ground six weeks before the ground freezes. However, we all know how unpredictable Oklahoma weather can be, so the timeframe for planting can be tricky. Just remember, bulbs need to be planted early enough to develop roots before the cold weather arrives.

Your local garden center should soon have a variety of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths to choose from. Try to find the largest and healthiest bulbs as they will bloom better than the smaller bulbs.

It’s important to choose a sunny spot in your yard to plant the bulbs. Generally, the more sun the better. Although humans enjoy the shade in the summer months, the bulbs will flourish in the sun. They don’t produce as may blooms in shaded areas. Keep in mind, however, there are a few bulbs that do well with some shade. It would be a good idea to do a bit of research before hitting the garden center. 

When it comes time to plant the bulbs, make sure the area has good drainage. If it doesn’t, consider putting in raised beds. If that isn’t an option, incorporate a good amount of organic material to improve drainage. As you dig holes for planting, the depth of the holes should be two to three times the diameter of the bulb. Tulips typically don’t last more than one or two seasons. Don’t expect them to perennialize like daffodils.

Bulbs don’t like to be crowded. Leave enough space between bulbs so they don’t touch. On the other hand, don’t plant them too far apart, either. Ideally, bulbs shouldn’t be planted more than 6 inches apart. Smaller bulbs will do well planted 3 inches or less apart.

Although gardeners won’t reap the color benefits of the bulbs until next spring, if you’re wanting some color in your garden now, go ahead and plant pansies, ornamental cabbage or kale and other cool season flowers in with the bulbs. Pansies are available in many colors and they will nestle in nicely amongst the bulbs.

David Hillock is a consumer horticulturist with OSU cooperative extension.

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