Master Gardener: Keep calm and plant bulbs |

Master Gardener: Keep calm and plant bulbs

Georgianne Nelson
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The bulb garden at the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs.
Courtesy photo

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” — Lady Bird Johnson

Picture this: a stormy winter scene out your garden window. Snow, layered on drifted snow. Now blink and imagine that scene come springtime and see all the bulbs you planted last fall, and they are in full bloom. Let’s get excited about planting bulbs this autumn.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, so be successful planting your bulbs. Late September and October are the preferred months of the year to plant the bulbs you have purchased so they have time to become well rooted before the ground freezes.

Choose a sunny site with adequate drainage. Plant bulbs according to the spacing and depth suggested, or four times the height of the bulb, and plant them pointed side up with the root facing down in the hole. Mulch the bed to maintain consistent temperature and to prevent the freeze/thaw cycles that might push a bulb out of the ground.

Information in greater detail is available at, click on Topics and drop down to Fall Gardening. There is so much information on the CSU Plant Talk site, including “how-to” videos. It’s a website to bookmark and return to often.

What is available to plant in our area? Well, there are bulbs for spring blooming, bulbs for fall blooming and bulbs to force.

Tulips, daffodils, alliums, crocuses, iris, muscari and hyacinth are all pretty plants to usher in spring. If you want bulbs that bloom in the fall, consider colchicum (autumn crocus). They send their leaves up in the spring, and their flowers, which may take you by surprise, bloom in the fall. Bulbs for forcing remind us of the holidays — amaryllis and paperwhites. Forcing can be done with soil and temperature control or in the case of paperwhites, a tray of water and pebbles.

Deer in your neighborhood? Resist planting a smorgasbord of tulips for browsing animals. Plant daffodils. Plant alliums. Plant hyacinths.

This article was prepared to coincide with the Yampa River Botanic Park’s second annual bulb and peony benefit to be held Oct. 4-5. Come see an amazing array of bulbs, including garlic and root stock peonies. On Oct. 4, Botanic Park members-only shopping hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can become a member now at

The public is invited from 2-6 p.m. Oct. 4 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 5. Master Gardeners and Botanic Park staff will be on hand to answer your questions so that you can be successful with your bulbs and enjoy the show in your springtime garden.

Georgianne Nelson was in the 2000 Colorado Master Gardener class and has volunteered at Yampa River Botanic Park for many years.

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