Timing of Planting
and Bulb Storage

Placement of your Bulbs
Things to Consider

Juneau's Varied Climate Zones
Formal and Informal Gardens
Other Odds and Ends to Think About

Ready, Set, Plant!

Soil Preparation
Feeding your Bulbs
General Planting Hints
Planting Chart
Planting in Patches
Planting the Little Guys
Planting the Big Guys
Planting the Really Big Guys
Planting a Bulb Stew
Planting a Container Garden

It's Show Time!

Before and After Bloom Care

Things you Might Notice
and What to Do About It

Forcing Bulbs

(Note: This has become a compilation and incorporates a variety of bulbs, some which we've offered in the past, some applicable to the current year's selection.)

Now for the "How To's" of
Bulbs in Juneau, Alaska

Bottom Line: Just Get Them in the Ground!

Timing of Planting and Bulb Storage

Bearded iris need to be planted right away. Lilies need to be moist, without molding, so it's probably better to get them in the ground soon, as well.

Storage if you don't plant right away:

The key is cool (less than 65° - and cooler is better than warmer), dry, ventilated, and out of direct sunlight for short-term storage. So LOOSEN your bulbs and let them BREATHE! Get them out of air tight plastic bags.

If you are not going to get them into the ground until next spring, or are saving your bulbs to force for a winter "pick-me-up," you can also store them in a refrigerator - the crisper is best. You don't want fruit and tomatoes sharing the fridge as the ethanol gas can ruin the bulbs. Keep the bulbs in open paper sacks to help avoid mold.

If you DO find surface mold on any of your bulbs, wash it off with water. You can also use any good fungicide or a solution of 10% bleach, and then immediately rinse off the bulbs. A product that sounds like "Benolaid" (spelling is probably wrong) is also used. Bulbs should be firm when planted. If the bulb is spongy, don't plant - or you risk spreading a problem.

You want to plant before the ground freezes deeper than 1 inch, but not so early that the bulbs get too wet. The last of September and into October are best (ground temperature is under 60*), though depending on the ground conditions, some Juneauites have been successful planting them into December, or waiting until March or April. However, fall planting helps the bulbs develop a root system and wintering also helps satisfy their need for a cold period.

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Placement of your Bulbs
Things to Consider

Bulbs are great most anywhere in your garden…between perennials, under trees, under shrubs, along borders, under ground covers, next to steps, along walkways, in pockets within a rock garden, in a hillside, and in the heart of your flower beds.

Sunny or partially sunny locations are important, as are places that do not get too soggy in the winter…so make sure you aren't locating bulbs along natural drainage lines. Bulbs that sit in water will mold before they get a chance to bloom. If you decide to plant on the shady side of your house, plants will bloom later though the blooms will last longer.

Some bulbs will be happier up close to your house or in protected areas, particularly if you live close to the Glacier. If you live in a colder area, extra mulching can help protect bulbs in the colder areas, and if you have a variation of opinions for planting depth between what's on the package, and other sources - use the deeper one.sunny

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Formal and Informal Gardens
If you have a formal look with regular borders and symmetry, more geometric patterns may suit your landscaping needs. This is a riskier concept in Alaska, as some plant loss is likely. Use blocks of one color, rather than mixed colors in a given planting.

If a more informal and natural appearance is desired, think of your beds like a painter using a broad-brush stroke of colors and textures. One planting and color leads into another and yet

into another, with the edges of a planting leading to a denser clump either on an edge or more centered, and then fading into the next bulb type. Tossing bulbs with a swinging motion and planting more or less where the bulbs land (given spacing needs of the bulb), can help you get a more casual effect, especially when the center or one edge is denser and the edges are sparser. You can also plant clumps of bulbs, with at least 3--5 larger bulbs or many small bulbs together. Avoid the single row…marching soldiers look.

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Other Odds and Ends to Think About

Consider the color of the background…buildings, other shrubs, rocks, etc. and look for complimenting and harmonizing with them. You'll want to think about the size of the plants and when they will be in bloom. Check the reference chart about the specific bulbs you have purchased to make sure they will like living where you are thinking about planting. The specific information will also advise you about depth and spacing needs.

Also plan for the height of the plants…smaller in front, taller in back or in the center of an island planting. Smaller plants should be planted to be seen … along a path, next to the door, under trees and rhodies, in clumps in a corner of a rock garden, as a border in front of foundation plants and in the lawn.

If the plants will be viewed from a close range, fewer are needed to make a good showing. If viewing from a longer distance, the more, the better…think mass planting for a great effect.

You may want to start an area and gradually phase-in your ideal bulb garden. Concentrate on a small area, planting bulbs more densely, rather than scattering them over a wider area.

Plant species by species, rather than mixing them to create drifts of color. You'll want to keep track of where you've left off. Planting Grape Hyacinth at the edges can help mark your bulb beds because they grow fall foliage that's easy to spot.

Another concept involves using your space for more dense plantings by layering bulbs so larger and smaller bulbs live in the same vertical space and create a longer show of color for one compact area.

The beauty of this is that more bulbs can go into a smaller area and there's a bit less soil preparation. The down-side is that if you want to examine or replace the deeper bulbs, you are disturbing the upper layer. Depending on the bulb, gardeners will tell you that you can always put the bulbs back where they came from and they are likely to re-group.

You can plant your bulbs in containers and move them wherever you want them. You can also reserve some bulbs to force (coax) for winter indoor pleasure. The following information also covers these options.

You can also try planting larger bulbs under ground covers such as Sedums,

Arabis, and Campanula. These overplantings become a natural mulch, helping to moderate temperatures and conserve moisture.

Because bulb foliage needs to stay attached to the bulb in order for the bulb to be replenished after blooming, it's wise to plan for either companion annual plantings or know that other perennials are growing close by. This approach helps hide the fading stems and leaves as they feed the bulb and wither.

Keep in mind that while some bulbs will give you years of pleasure, others like tulips will give their best showing in the first year and some will do pretty well in the second year. From there --it all depends on the care you give them and the nature of the bulb itself. Some gardeners prefer to simply plant bulbs as if they are annuals and start anew each fall. This way, new bulb combinations can be tried and the best spring results are achieved. Keep in mind also that Mother Nature can be rough on bulbs, but bulbs usually come through for us in Southeast Alaska. So if you have a rough time of it one year, don't give up! Think about what you might do differently and give them another try.

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Feeding Your Bulbs
Include bulb booster mixed with the soil at the bottom of the trench and dig it in below where the bulbs will lay. This fertilizer should last for several seasons.

When adding fertilizer, mix into the soil below the depth where your bulbs will go and then add a couple inches of soil to make the depth for the planting. This helps prevent bulbs from getting burned by the fertilizer. One publication even suggests that while applying fertilizer into the ground is a very common practice, that a top dressing of fertilizer is their recommended approach. Bottom line: just fertilize and do it carefully!

  • Use 2 cups for each 5'x10' (50 square foot) area. Sprinkle granules evenly and mix into the soil 4-6 inches deep. A little will go a long way.
  • If planting one bulb at a time, mix 1 teaspoon in the bottom of the hole, drop in a handful of soil and then place the bulb in the hole. Do not let the bulb directly touch the plant food.
  • Nitrogen is also needed and is best given to established bulbs in the fall using a bulb booster by applying it one to two inches into the ground. During the spring, high-nitrogen fertilizer is a good idea and can be applied by using Urea--one pound per 100 square feet and stirring it into the ground after removing any plant litter.
  • Tulips like a slightly acidic soil and if you are serious about your tulips, you might want to get a soil test kit and use additives according to your soil needs. Daffodils, on the other hand, are happy with one application of fertilizer and then can scavenge for future food supplies.

General Planting Hints
Plant with the "pointy" side UP (or the flattest side DOWN) and give the bulbs a gentle half twist as you place them in the soil to help them stay upright as you cover them with soil.

Water after planting only if the soil is dried out and rain is not expected (could we hope for such a problem?) You'll want to cover the bulbs with about 4 inches of soil (or a couple inches if planting the little guys) and water, if needed, before adding the rest of the soil.

After the ground freezes, add 2-4 inches of mulching material over the beds to protect the bulbs from frost heaving. Waiting until the ground is frozen helps excess moisture from being trapped. Mulching helps prevent frost heaving. Mulch can include pine needles, fur boughs, peat moss, wood chips, etc. Use leaves only if they do not seal out air and water. The mulch should be removed when signs of spring growth are visible…so watch for it!

When shoveling snow, toss a snow blanket over your bulbs to keep them cozy.

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Thanks and we look forward to working with you through the fall.