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Horticulture Hotline: Cooler weather means time to think about bulbs

Iris flowering

For early spring blooming bulbs, plant them in late November through early January. 

Let’s talk bulbs.

When you buy your bulbs, buy them pre-cooled and keep them in the refrigerator if you have room. Different bulbs have different chilling requirements.

It is easier to let the professional bulb grower figure out the exact chilling hours for your bulbs, this way you won’t be counting hours of cooling under a certain temperature.

Daffodils (Narcissus) have a low chilling requirement and that is why they come back each year in the Lowcountry. Tulips require more chilling and this is why they do not come back and you must replant each year.

Tulip breeders are trying to develop tulips that require fewer chilling hours so that they can be used in warmer climates. The apple and peach breeders are trying to do the same with their crops.

For early spring blooming bulbs, plant them in late November through early January. Bulbs will start to grow when the temperatures get in the 80’s, so if you want them to bloom in February watch getting them out too early. With our crazy weather, they might start coming up earlier than you wanted.

Planting bulbs is easy. Some people plant them in pots and others in the ground. When planting in the ground it is best to group them for a good show. Ideally, when planting in the ground, you would place a three inches layer of Nature’s Blend Bed Amendment evenly over the area to be planted. Till this into a depth of six inches.

After tilling, water the area to firm up the area. Plant your bulbs, then place chicken mesh over the bulbs, this will keep the squirrels from digging up the bulbs.

Top dress the area with Cotton Burr Compost and spray it with Squirrel Stopper. Nature’s Blend Bed Amendment contains Cotton Burr, composted cattle manure, humate and alfalfa meal. This mixture will get your bulb off to a good start.

Be sure to plant the bulb at the right depth and with the root side pointing down! Add some 04-04-04 Sustain to the hole when you plant the bulb for the benefit of mycorrhiza fungi.

Some types of bulbs that do good around here include; tulips (one-time spectacular showing), daffodils/narcissus (many types – “Ice Follies” does particularly well), anemone, glanthus (Snow Drop), muscari (Grape hyacinth-watch heat-this plant likes morning sun and then shade), leucojum, lycrois (Surprise Lily and Magic Lily), allium, ipheon (Star Flower), iris (all types), and gingers.

Gladiolus are a summer blooming corm – begin planting in April every week to two weeks, they will bloom 90 days after planting so you can have cut flowers or good color in the yard all summer long.

After you eat the big turkey dinner, plan to walk off a few calories around the beautiful Lowcountry or enjoy some of the many holiday activities in the area.

Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply, 481 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant (971-9601). Or visit at

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