COLUMN: Fall is the time to plant bulbs for spring flowers

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By Bryce Roberts

Fall is the time to think about all those flowers we associate with spring: daffodils, crocus, and other easy-to-grow flowering bulbs. If you aren’t growing any spring-flowering bulbs in your landscape, you are missing out on some easy-to-grow plants that provide early color to your garden.
These bulbs are planted in fall because it corresponds to the end of their natural dormancy.  Most of these plants begin root growth in fall, followed by a cool stratification period necessary for proper flower development and then shoot growth in late winter and early spring.   
No matter which bulbs you select, remember that the largest bulbs will produce the greatest show next spring.  However, smaller bulbs will still produce some flowers, and these may be the best choice for mass planting or naturalizing.  Avoid any bulbs that feel lightweight as these may have severely dried during storage.
It’s important to plant flowering bulbs at the proper depth, so inquire about plant depth at the nursery or follow the label directions.  A light application of bone meal fertilizer at planting is often recommended, though probably not necessary. Most bulbs do not need fertilization until growth emerges in the spring. When you see plants emerging, apply 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer (like 10-10-10).
Once flowering occurs, remove the faded blooms, but don’t remove the foliage. The leaves produce sugars and other compounds necessary for the bulb to overwinter and bloom again the next spring.  Most bulbs will enter dormancy in late spring or early summer and will renew growth, starting with the root system in the fall.
Feel free to contact me at your Spencer County Cooperative Extension Service at 477-2217 or you can email me at broberts@uky.edu.  You can visit the Spencer County Extension Services’ website at www.spencerextension.com.
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