Small Bulbs Make a Big Impact in Spring
By Paula Hagan, Green Spring Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
This year, try adding variety to your spring garden by planting some of the smaller fall-planted bulbs. For these bulbs, timing is everything. They need to start growing their roots before cold weather. But they also need “chill time,” when the temperature drops to about 40 degrees for 10 to 16 weeks, before they can bloom. In Northern Virginia, mid-October is a good plant-ing time for fall bulbs, but they can be planted as late as November.
Because small bulbs usually produce small flowers, plant a mass of them (15, 20 or more) for best effect. For Febru-ary color try some yellow-flowered winter aconite. For March, Chionodoxa comes in lovely shades of pink and blue. Or plant the late-blooming, low-growing pink Oxalis, with its beauti-ful shamrock-like leaves.
The best time to buy bulbs at your local supplier is early September, when the best selec-tion is available. A true bulb has all its food energy, leaves and the flower itself already packaged inside. With bulbs, bigger is better to store all that nutrition and flower. Don’t buy bulbs with mold, cuts or that have already started growing two inches or more.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY BULBS
After bulbs bloom, cut the spent flowers. Allow the foliage to die back naturally. Do not braid or knot the foliage. Most bulbs need at least a month after bloom for the foliage to gather nutrients through photo-synthesis to store as energy for beautiful blooms next year.