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Gardening: Preparing for spring flowers

Posted: November 26, 2012 - 5:20pm

Spring-flowering bulbs are some of the earliest flowers appearing in gardens each year. Some flowering bulbs start blooming as early as January and can be planted in flower beds, around trees, or grown in pots and window boxes. Spring bulbs flower from late winter to early summer. Popular flowering bulbs favored by most gardeners are daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus.

Seeing bright, yellow daffodils blooming in your garden is your sign that spring is near. They usually bear attractive yellow or white trumpet-shaped flowers with six petals. Their leafless stems bear between one and 20 flowers. The daffodil is an excellent flower for cutting, but when cut, they should be kept alone in a vase because their stems secrete a fluid that promotes wilting of other flowers.

When planting daffodils, select a site offering full sun or part shade in well-drained soil that retains moisture during the growing season. Select large high-quality daffodil bulbs that have not dried out. Plant daffodil bulbs two to four weeks before the ground freezes in soil 1-1/2 to 5 times their own depth. Plant three to six inches apart to avoid overcrowding. Daffodils tend to resist deer, rabbits, squirrels and other rodents because they do not like the taste of the bulbs.

Tulips are beautiful flowers with vibrant colors and are a refreshing change after a cold, dreary winter. Although tulips are easy to plant and maintain, you should choose bulbs that are plump and firm. Tulips should be planted in soil that drains well, and the site should have at least six hours of sun. Prepare soil by digging at least 12 inches deep to ensure the soil is loose and clump free. Bury the bulb three times the bulb height in depth. If the bulb is two inches high, make the hole six inches deep, leaving four inches of dirt above the top tip of the bulb. Plant the bulb approximately two times their width apart. Position the bulb with the pointy side up and with the flat root side sitting at the bottom. Fill the hole with soil making sure there are no air pockets by patting the ground lightly as you fill. Water thoroughly.

After tulips bloom, let their leaves yellow for approximately two months before cutting back because the foliage helps feed the bulbs. Tulips make excellent cut flowers and usually last for a week in a vase. Adding a small amount of sugar to your water will prolong the life of your tulips.

The fragrant scent and vibrant colors of hyacinths make them a favorite spring-flowering bulb. Flower colors include rich magenta and deep indigo as well as paler pinks, baby blues, yellows and white. Prepare the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, and then mix in a two to four inch layer of compost. Dig a hole six to eight inches deep. Set the bulb in the hole with the pointy end up, and then cover with soil and press firmly. Space bulbs four to six inches apart and water thoroughly. Water hyacinths during dry spells. After flowering in spring, cut back flower stalks but allow the leaves to die back naturally. Applying compost should provide adequate nutrients.

You are missing an early season delight if you are not planting the crocus bulb. Strong bulbs like crocus provide winter garden color. Plant crocus bulbs in soil that drains well, three to four inches deep with pointy end up. Water well. Plant crocus bulbs in groups, or in clusters a few inches apart in groups of 10 or more. Keep crocus beds watered if the weather gets dry, and cover beds with mulch before the winter.

If problems occur with your spring-flowering bulbs, remember your Clemson University Home Gardening Information Center at (888) 656-9988 or hgic.clemson.edu.

Victoria Hall, a North Augusta resident, has been a master gardener since 2008.

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