How to Plant Bulbs

Classic bulb planting advice from 1949.

By Dr. William H. Eyster


Bulb Freezias, such as these, have netted husks. Selecting Bulbs for Planting:
Bulbs, as a rule, are graded according to size expressed in inches or centimeters (a centimeter is equal to about 2.5 inches). In some lists the bulbs may be listed according to circumference, which is about three times the diameter. A bulb or corm having a circumference of 2.25 or 3.0 inches has a diameter less than an inch. For exhibition blooms, select the top or exhibition size. For garden beds, first or second size bulbs will be adequate and sometimes preferable. In tulips, select the second size for outdoor planting.  The daffodil bulb is perennial so that the largest bulbs are the best. Bedding-size hyacinth are preferred for outdoor planting because their spikes are not so heavy and therefore are less likely to be marred by the battering winds of early spring. Do not buy cheap bulbs because they are either diseased or small or otherwise undesirable. Recommended sizes of bulbs are shown in the illustration, all drawn to the same scale. 

Bulbs in the Flower Border:
Bulbs are very effective in the flower borders and flower beds, where they may take their place among the other flowers as a unit in the succession of bloom from spring to fall. They make the border colorful in early spring while other plants are making their plant growth, and die down and disappear as they are displaced by the other plants of the border. In the border, the bulbs should be massed irregularly in groups of six to twenty-five. 

Bulbs Among the Shrubs:
Groups of bulbs may also be spotted in the shrub border. Clumps of the low-growing crocus and grape hyacinth, and the larger and more brilliant tulips and narcissus will be found very effective.

Bulbs in the Rock Garden:
The smallest types of bulbs may be used to good advantage in the rock garden. They should be planted in clumps beneath such rock plants as will not form a solid mat over the surface of the soil. They will make their contribution in color and fragrance in their season and then they will withdraw and be hidden by the later-blooming rock plants above them.  Especially adapted for the rock garden are crocus, snowflake, snowdrop, glory of the snow, squill, winter aconite, dogtooth violet, grape hyacinth, coral lily, and Tulipa kaujmanniana.

Bulbs for Shady Spots:
Shady spots in the yard may easily be beautified by the use of narcissus, camassia, crocus, dogtooth violet, and many of the lilies. Of course, the soil in such places must be well enriched with plenty of good compost.