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Midland Living Magazine

In Bloom | Daffodils & Tulips

Oct 22, 2019 04:06PM ● By John Shallenberger
by rebecca rister | photos john birkler & wyim

I love flowers! Who doesn’t? But what I really love are flowers that come back on their own year after year with little to no maintenance. I have had some success with bulbs and some failures. I fell in love with bulbs over 10 years ago when our hometown florist suggested an economical option for my bridesmaids…gladiolus. They were lovely! After the bridesmaids carried them in our wedding ceremony, my frugal family took and re-purposed them at the reception in tall crystal vases. So, when setting up my first house I took a spade and thought I would plant a few gladiolus and their bulb cousins…the tulip and daffodil.  Sadly, the tulips and daffodils did not come up that first year, but the gladiolus did! Check out a few tips to help your bulb planting experience be a success. 



Picking Your Bulbs: 

When picking out which bulbs, to buy bigger really is better in this case. Select the largest and most firm bulbs you can find. I have been told that firmness indicates a healthy plant. Avoid bulbs that are withered or moldy. Shop local and ask the nursery what has done well for them. If you have large established trees in your yard, a classic look I love is daffodils surrounding the base of your tree. Others love to plant bulbs out by the mailbox – an area furthest from the home which generally receives plenty of sun. 


When to Plant:

Fall is the time of year to plant spring daffodils and tulips. It is suggested to wait until it gets around 50 degrees at night which may be as late as November around here. If you’re like me,
by the time they bloom you may have forgotten you even planted them, and what a nice
surprise it is. 

 “Where flowers bloom, so does hope” 

- Lady Bird Johnson

How to Plant:

Which end of the bulb is supposed to point up? This part always confuses me. The pointed end of the bulb goes up to the sky. The other end (hopefully shows tiny roots) goes first into the dirt. If you can’t tell which is which, plant them on their side. For best results, plant bulbs in an area that will be well watered and have 6 plus hours of sunlight a day. Also, make sure that the area drains well to prevent your bulb from rotting. Plant bulbs to a depth of about 3 times their diameter. For daffodils, that’s about 6 - 8 inches. Smaller bulbs, such as tulips, can be planted to a depth of about 3 inches.

 “Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

- Hans Christian Andersen


After they are done blooming you can cut them back to ground level. Just make sure not to cut them back too soon! I know they can look drab, but let them die back naturally. The flower needs time to photosynthesize (defined by Wikipedia as the process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation). It will help them to bloom again next season. 

Like most things in the garden, this may require trial and error. I have planted many blubs and wildflowers that produced nothing. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So the next time try planting your bulbs in a new location more conducive to the sun and not holding water. Also check the time of year you are planting your bulbs. 


We have since moved from our first home, but in the spring I can’t help but drive by to visit those gladiolus which so far, have continued to spring back up each year.

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