by Cathy Bylinowski, MU Extension Jackson County Horticulture Instructor
Spring bulbs add a splash of color to our spring gardens and to the beginning of the new gardening season. They can be planted among groundcovers and perennials. As these plants grow in the spring, they will hide the fading bulb foliage.
Spring flowering bulbs need to be planted in the fall, in well-drained soil in areas that receive part shade to full sun. Planting the bulbs about 2-3 times the height of the bulb is a general rule for planting depth. The bulbs need exposure to cold winter temperatures in order to bloom next spring. You should have plenty of time to purchase and plant spring bulbs this month.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite bulbs and tips for success:
Daffodils Narcissus spp.- Ranging from yellow, to white, to orange, daffodils’ unusual and variable flower shape and wonderful scent made them a good addition to our gardens. Daffodils last a long time and can be used to naturalize in flower beds and lawns. They need full sun and well-drained soil. A fertilizer high in phosphorus such as bone meal, helps the bulb develop a healthy root system. Plant bulbs 6-8 inches deep. Trim the old flower stems off. Daffodil foliage needs to photosynthesis to store food for next year’s growth. Do not cut off or bundle up the foliage.
Tulips Tulipa spp- Some tulips bloom well for one year and gradually lose vigor in subsequent years. Sometimes landscape managers use them like an annual. If you want beautiful perennial tulips, select a variety such as Darwin hybrids or a species tulip; they live and bloom for many years.
Crocus Crocus vernus- Crocus are diminutive and brightly colored flowers that surprise us with their blooms as early as February and March. Full sun and well-drained soil are essential for good performance.
Wild hyacinth- Camassia scilloides- Looking for a Missouri native flowering bulb? Wild hyacinth is a good choice. The pale blue spike of flowers blooms in April and May in glades, prairies, and savannas in many parts of Missouri. They need part sun to full sun to thrive. Many nurseries that supply native plants grow and sell this species.
Did you enjoy summer flowering bulbs and ornamentals this year? Cannas and caladiums were especially attractive this year. If you want to save money, try digging up cannas, caladiums, calla lilies, elephant ear caladiums, gladiolus, and dahlias after a light frost for next year. Let the roots or bulbs dry and then overwinter them in a cool, dark place, with good air circulation. A basement or room that does not get below freezing is a good place to store them. Trim off the foliage. Replant in late April or early May after the danger of frosts and freezes has passed. Plant in well-drained soil.
Cannas- Cannas are tall and vigorous, with attractive foliage and vivid flowers all summer long. There are tall varieties that work well in the background and shorter varieties that can be planted towards the front of a bed. Cannas flower colors range from deep red to pink, to yellow. In zones 7-10, cannas are left outside all year, but in the Kansas City region, it is safer to lift them up for overwintering in a dry medium such as vermiculite or peat.
Caladiums- Grown for their beautiful foliage, caladiums thrive in shade and part shade. They like moist, well-drained soil. They can be grown in containers or in flower beds.
For more information on a wide range of herbaceous ornamental plants, check out this publication from the Master Gardener Core Manual- https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/mg9
If you need more gardening information, contact Extension Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City Hotline, 816-833-TREE (8733) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.