Nothing says spring like swathes of bulbs showing off their colours! Bulbs make great additions to the landscape; they create dramatic, colourful displays early in the spring when most plants are just starting to wake up. Bulbs are useful in borders, rock gardens, area naturalization, blending annuals and perennials, as colour accents and for indoor forcing. At Sunnyside our friendly and knowledgeable staff are here to help you make the right selections for you garden! Proper selection will enable you to enjoy bulbs throughout the growing season.
We carry a large selection of bulbs in the fall and in the spring. Unleash your creativity and add some bulbs to your garden beds! We have something to suit everyones needs no matter how green their thumb.
Calgary’s climate presents unique challenges when trying to grow plants. Chinooks can cause plants to start growing during warm spells, only to be knocked back once temperatures return within normal winter ranges. The lack of humidity and dry soils add another obstacle to success with plants in our climate. Don’t be discouraged; there are lots of different varieties that are spectacular performers for the Calgary area.
Bulbs are divided into two main categories, fall planted bulbs and spring planted bulbs.
Fall planted bulbs
These spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall before the ground freezes. September and October are the best months because this allows the bulbs time to root before the ground freezes. Daffodils are the exception and should be planted in September as they need several weeks of good weather to root well.
Here are some quick care tips:
- Plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchasing.
- Water well after planting.
- Fertilize as soon as flowering is finished and continue watering until the plants go dormant.
- Allow the foliage to die back naturally as the leaves manufacture food that the bulb stores to support next year’s growth. Removal of the foliage prior to natural die back will result in less food being stored and can seriously interfere with the production of flowers for the following season.
- A noticeable increase in the foliage and a decrease in flowering could be an indicator that the bulbs need to be divided.
Spring planted bulbs
These summer flowering bulbs are planted in the spring, once the danger of frost has passed. There are two categories of spring planted bulbs: hardy and tender. The hardy bulbs will survive our winters and can be planted and left. Tender bulbs will need to be lifted in the fall and stored for the winter or replaced on an annual basis. It is a good idea to start spring bulbs indoors in March; this will give your plants a head start so they will have a well-developed root system before they are planted outside once the danger of frost has passed.
Here are some quick care tips:
- Keep soil surface loosened throughout the season, be careful not to disturb or destroy roots.
- Apply an all-purpose fertilizer such as 20-20-20 throughout the growing season.
- For Tender bulbs:
- After the bulbs leaves are hit with frost, lift the bulbs from the soil and clean them. Cut off the top part, withered parts and excess soil. To remove the soil, let the bulbs dry, than brush off any excess soil. Never wash the bulbs to remove soil.
- Dust the bulbs with a fungicide (Bulb & Soil dust). Put the bulb dust into a bag, add in the dry bulbs and shake so the bulbs become coated with the dust.
- Place the bulbs in peat moss or vermiculite in mesh bags or a box.
- Store the bulbs in a dark, cool, dry location for the winter. Bulbs will remain dormant until they are planted in March for the spring.
When planting bulbs, plant the bulbs to a depth of 3-4 times the height of the bulb - from the soil surface to the tip of the bulb.
Hardiness zone is a geographically defined area in which specific plant life is capable of growing. It encompasses climatic conditions such as plants ability to withstand minimum temperatures. Calgary is located in zone 3 within a Chinook area. We experience a large variance of climatic conditions within the city, so your zone will change depending on where you are located. You will notice different microclimates within your yard that allow you to grow plants that would otherwise be out of your zone. It is recommended to use zones as a guideline when selecting plants but always remember that unusual weather patterns influence the success or failure of any given plant. Zones 1, 2 and 3 are ideal candidates for landscapes in Calgary. Zone 4 and 5 perennials can be seen growing successfully in many different landscape situations; however a little extra care may be required.
Choosing an appropriate site will ensure success when planting bulbs. Here are some site selection tips:
- Plant in a location that receives full sun to light shade.
- Plant in a rich, moist, well-drained soil.
- Amend soil annually with compost or manure.
- Incorporate bulb booster or bone meal into the soil annually.
- Good drainage is essential or bulbs will be susceptible to rot.
Watering is a key component to success when planting. Bulbs need to be watered regularly when they are actively growing. It is especially important to keep bulbs watered when they are forming flower buds and producing flowers. Once flowering has finished and leaves start to yellow and die back you can stop watering.
In the late fall it is extremely important to water everything thoroughly to increase winter survivability. All plants, especially new plantings, need a good drink before the ground freezes; this prevents damage to roots from cold dry soils and will prevent any unnecessary stress to plants.
Soil contains all the nutrients plants need to grow and thrive; unfortunately soils may not have nutrients in sufficient quantities to suit each plant’s needs. It is advisable to add 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) of organic matter on an annual basis which will help add nutrients to the soil. Plants also benefit greatly from the regular application of fertilizer. Regular fertilizing through the growing season will provide steady growth, maximum blooming and a longer plant life. Incorporate bulb booster or bone meal into the soil when planting. After flowering, fertilize annually with a granular fertilizer, such as bulb booster or a water soluble fertilizer like 20-20-20.
Covering the ground where bulbs are planted with a layer of mulch will help conserve moisture, prevent erosion, slow weed growth, prevent crusting of the soil surface, protect against soil compaction, and moderate temperature which will discourage premature emergence of bulbs in the spring. Organic mulches are ideal because they insulate the soil, reduce evaporation of water and, add nutrients to the soil as they break down. You can use different products for mulching including compost, manure, bark mulch, leaf litter, straw and other materials.