Now is the time to plant bulbs for spring flowers

allium in pot and near bench
Allium, which is large and showy, catches your eye in spring, but if you want it in your garden, you have to plant it now. Photos courtesy Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses and by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“Alliums are flowers that people see in the spring, and they come in expecting to buy them,” said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses in Williamsville. “It’s showy and they think, ‘I’ve got to have that.'”

Although these great flowers appear in spring, you have to plant them in fall.

“Right now is the time to plant them,” Yadon said. You can plant them through mid-November, if you can still work the soil then.

Now is also the time to plant other spring bulbs, too, including daffodils or narcissus, tulips, crocus, hyacinths and fritillaria.

Most garden centers carry spring bulbs now, he said, but they may sell out if you wait too long. Even if you don’t intend to plant for a few weeks, you may want to buy bulbs now to make sure you can get the ones you want.

Protecting spring bulbs from deer, rabbits, squirrels

One of the problems that many gardeners have with spring bulbs is that certain animals like them as much as we do. Deer and rabbits may eat the plant and squirrels like to dig up the bulbs and eat them.

Here are some tips for dealing with these pests.

Tip #1: Plant bulbs that critters don’t like

Tulips are showy, but you have to protect them from deer and rabbits or those animals will go right after them and eat them, Yadon said. The same with crocuses. In addition, squirrels dig up the bulbs.

To save yourself some trouble right from the start, plant bulbs those critters don’t go for. Good choices are allium, hyacinth and daffodils or narcissus.

Deer don’t mess with fritillaria, either, but those spring bulbs from the lily family are a target for the red lily leaf beetle.

Tip #2: Create a barrier

plastic mesh tray for flat of plants
You might have one of these trays from a flat of plants in your shed or garage right now. You can use it as a barrier to protect your bulbs from squirrels. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

To prevent squirrels from digging up bulbs, create a barrier. You can use chicken wire or those black plastic trays that hold an entire flat of plants. (See photo.) The six-packs of plants are placed in the tray, and the bottom of the tray is mesh. You might have one in your garage or shed now.

Plant your bulbs and cover them with some soil, Yadon said. Next set the chicken wire or plastic mesh tray over the soil, then add more soil to completely bury the chicken wire or tray. The plants will grow up through the mesh or chicken wire, but the squirrels won’t be able to dig up the bulbs.

Tip #3: Try stinky sprays on your bulbs

I was talking with some Master Gardeners from Niagara County the other day. One gardener wanted to plant spring bulbs in a spot that tends to be wet, so she applied fungicide to the bulbs before planting. She was happy to discover that the squirrels didn’t dig up those bulbs.

John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County, notes that when you’re using any kind of pesticide– and that includes fungicides– you should use them according to the label. The gardener was using a fungicide to stop damage from fungus, which it was labelled for, and had the happy side effect of repelling squirrels. But if a fungicide isn’t labelled as a rodent repellent, you shouldn’t use it solely as a rodent repellent.

However, there are fungicides, such as Thiram, that are actually labelled for repelling rodents, deer and rabbits, Farfaglia said.

To keep squirrels from digging up your bulbs, you can also apply commercial sprays or homemade sprays that have been created to repel animals.

More tips on bulbs:

Enjoy waves of spring color– in a single spot

Get spectacular spring color without sacrificing summer splendor

What perennials to plant around spring bulbs

How to prepare bulbs to force inside

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2 Comments on “Now is the time to plant bulbs for spring flowers

  1. Please help. I planted allium in the fall of 2015, which i purchased from a nursery. Leaves came up within a few weeks and then died during the winter. in the spring no flower. Same the next year. The leaves just came up now. I have had no flowers from any of these bulbs. Thanks for your help.

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