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It is time for planting spring-flowering bulbs. Following are some tips on more effectively utilizing bulbs:
Grow your bulbs in plastic containers set in the ground of your garden. When spring arrives, remove the pots as the bulbs start to bloom and place them around your porch, patio or deck. By using early, mid and late-season blooming flowers, you will have a continuous show for a couple of months. Also, by planting in pots, you are protecting the bulbs from all the critters that really enjoy a feast of tulips, lilies and crocuses. You do not have to bury your containers, just be sure if you are planting in pots, the bulbs are planted at the correct depth and the pots are large enough to provide winter protection.
To provide early color and also hide the plants after they have become yellowed and worn after flowering, interplanting is a great solution. Mix bulb plantings among shrubs, perennials and ground covers to liven up drab areas. Remember, many bulbs will bloom in the spring sun before trees leaf out.
Summer perennials and annuals mask the ugly dying foliage of bulbs. To hide dying bulb foliage, plant these sun perennials: rudbeckia, phlox, sedum, daylilies, coreopsis, salvias, Siberian iris, daisies and verbena; or these part-shade perennials: hosta, hardy begonia, ferns, hellebores, bleeding heart, astilbe and columbine.
Fertilization improves bulb performance. Newly planted bulbs will have improved quality. In addition, fertilization encourages bulbs to “perennialize;” that is, flower for several years without replacing or dividing the bulbs.
There are two fertilizer systems available for spring-flowering bulbs. The first system utilizes a single fall application at planting. You can purchase a sulfur-coated, slow-release complete fertilizer. This should be incorporated into the rooting area at planting at a rate of one rounded tablespoon per square foot.
The second system uses bone meal incorporated in the rooting area at planting time with an application of 8-8-8 (one level tablespoon) or 10-10-10 (one rounded teaspoon) in the fall, followed by a repeat application of the same fertilizer as soon as you see shoots breaking the ground in the spring.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.