University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
MINIATURE SPRING BULBS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
old saying, "good things come in small packages," is especially true
for the spring bulb garden. Although large Dutch tulips and yellow
daffodils certainly have their place in the garden, spring-blooming
miniatures--called minor bulbs in the nursery trade--add pizzazz. Most
are prolific bloomers, with some, like snow drops and snow crocuses, among the
first to flower in the spring.
rules for planting these miniatures are the same as for any spring-flowering
bulb. You need to get them in the ground in the early fall. This
allows them to develop a strong root system, before the ground freezes.
But because the blooms are tiny, you will need to plant them fairly close
together, en masse, to provide impact. Their small size also makes them
the perfect plant for a rock garden, to use along a path or edge of a small
property, or plant among taller bulbs to bloom under them.
these bulbs are perennials, it's to your benefit to spend time getting the soil
ready. They need a well-drained area though don't worry too much about
finding a sunny spot. At the time of their bloom,
deciduous trees haven't leafed out yet, so there's adequate light filtering
through the leafless branches to keep these plants blooming. By the time
the tree canopy has formed, the miniatures have already gone dormant.
a spade or pitchfork, loosen the soil to a depth of about ten inches. If
planting under trees, take care not
to harm the roots. Work in plenty of compost, shredded leaves, or other
organic matter to add nutrients. If your soil is heavy clay, add even
more organic matter, such as peat moss, to loosen it up and improve drainage.
Plant the bulbs three times as deep as the
bulb is high. A one-inch bulb should be planted three inches deep.
While many gardeners use a bulb planter to dig holes, a trowel often works
better for the smaller bulbs, especially if you are planting them densely for a
stronger splash of color. Instead of individual holes, dig a wider one
for several bulbs. I often dig a zigzag trench.
the bottom of the hole or trench place a very small amount of fertilizer (see
directions on the package). Fertilizers
designed especially for bulbs are available at commercial garden centers.
Make sure there is some soil between the base of the bulb and the fertilizer to
avoid injuring the tender bulbs. Or you
can use an organic fertilizer. Avoid
using bone meal as this will attract skunks and other rodents who will dig up
bulbs in the hole with the growth point (pointed end) facing up. Then
carefully backfill, replacing the soil you removed. Tamp down gently,
then water thoroughly. Mulch with a one- to two-inch layer of shredded
pine bark, shredded leaves, or straw for protection against fluctuating soil
temperatures. These keep the soil warmer
in the fall, allowing more root growth.
spring, just as new growth emerges, top-dress with bulb fertilizer. After
the bloom period, do not cut back the foliage. The leaves manufacture and
store food in the bulb to create blooms next year. Many gardeners will
plant bulbs among other flowers which hide the dried and withering bulb foliage.
Or, naturalize in a lawn area that you can wait to mow until early July when
foliage on bulbs dies back.
are some ideas of bulbs you might try for various colors next spring.
BLUES AND PURPLES--grape hyacinth (Muscari), eight to 10 inches tall, dark
blue flowers; striped squill (Puschkinia),
four to six inches, blue or bluish-white, also comes in white;
glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), four
inches, bright blue; Grecian windflower (Anemone
blanda 'Blue Star'), three to eight inches; and my favorite for
naturalizing, Siberian squill (Scilla),
four to six inches, deep blue flowers.
REDS AND PINKS--snake's-head or
checquered lily (Fritillaria meleagris),
eight to ten inches, checkered maroon pattern, about the only bulb to withstand wet conditions; Grecian windflower (Anemone coronaria), three to eight
inches, red; Grecian windflower (Anemone
blanda 'Pink Star'), three to eight inches, pink.
WHITE—summer snowflake (Leucojum), white bells, blooms late
spring, one foot or less (more commonly comes in a giant form with larger
flowers); glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa
luciliae 'Alba'), four inches tall, early bloomer; dwarf
narcissus (Narcissus 'Thalia’), less
than one foot high, has several small white flowers per stem.
YELLOW--crocus (Crocus angustifolius 'Minor'), four inches, deep orange-yellow color
with bronze stripes; dwarf daffodils including the petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium), five inches, yellow
trumpet-like blooms; and Tête-à-Tête daffodil, six inches, deep yellow
flowers, one to three flowers per stem.
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