Planting flower bulbs when you’re too late!

Most flower bulbs, especially those that bloom in spring are planted in autumn before the first frost. In my area bulbs are planted onwards from the 15th of October into November. If you respect this time frame there probably won’t be any issues, most bulbs are hardy and will show themselves in spring.
There are a few reasons why you might miss this timeframe however; perhaps you forgot about those few bags you squirreled away, and you’ve just found them (guilty), your order arrived late, or you’ve been waiting for the reduced prices shops offer them for when the ideal planting period is over. I have quite a large area that needs to be made productive for my honeybees, so I try to save money when I can. But, penny-wise and pound-foolish, it’s not as easy to get the bulbs through winter when you plant them this late in December, when the temperature has dipped below freezing. We’ll have to take some extra measures and care planting these forgotten bulbs.



I’ll be planting these tulips and allium bulbs. Allium nectaroscordum siculum sounded like something the pollinators would love, and I’m hoping the red in them will match well with these ‘couleur cardinal’ tulips.

First assess the condition the bulbs are in. You’ll probably notice them having grown small, meaty roots and perhaps green starts out of the top. Don’t break anything! Be extra careful with bulbs like these. Bulbs grow these roots and tops from the nutrients that are stored inside them. Breaking them means depleting them of the stores that allow them to grow.



I like to grow tulips, and bulbs I’m not familiar with, in pots. When the ground is frozen you don’t have any other option anyway. I will use a 40cm diameter flower tub/pot. Use what you like, tulips do not need large pots, neither do alliums. You’ll move these pots at least 3 times, make sure you can handle the pots securely, so you don’t damage any roots.
Put down pebbles or broken pottery, whatever you like to use, in the bottom of the pots. I like to use shards from broken earthen plant pots. They do not add much weight, they are curved which allows water to escape more easily and because they are made of clay, they can’t trap water like plastic would.
On top of the pottery shards I’m putting a layer of rough but semi-digested rabbit manure. Rabbit manure is an excellent fertilizer to use in the garden. Its best quality is that it doesn’t burn plants when you add it to plants during summer, uncomposted. Instead of correcting signs of a nutrient deficiency with artificial fertilizer, use rabbit manure.

Throw some of your own garden soil on top of this and add water, not too much just make sure the manure is moist, then add a layer of good potting soil.
Most bulbs need to be planted at 3x their own height. Be careful when placing them into the earth, don’t damage the roots. Cover the bulbs with good topsoil until the bulbs are buried under a layer of 3x their own height.

Be careful not to water these too much. Bulbs that are planted later than ideal rot quickly. I put these pots in a well-insulated greenhouse with minimal heating and I will take them out of there within a week and put them in a greenhouse without heating, there I’ll insulate the pots with leaves. I will move these pots outside in March or April, depending on the weather.

Now I’ll have to wait for spring to know if I was succesful.

Purple tulips
Purple tulips from… Goals!



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