Ask a master gardener about bulbs

  • Supplied photo/Evergreen Landscape Supplied photo/Evergreen Landscape

  • Klein Schiphorst Steven Bemelman

For the Gazette
Published: 10/11/2018 3:48:35 PM

Q: I’m new to bulbs and just picked up some daffodils and alliums. Can I still plant them now? I’m in Florence. Thanks – D.T., Florence

A: Welcome to the wonderful world of bulbs, D.T.!

You are in luck. Yes, there is still time to plant these fun, easy, ready-made floral displays. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs when the average nighttime temperature is in the 40 - 50 degree F range. Looking ahead this week in Northampton, this is the current range. Ideally, plant bulbs 6 weeks before a hard, ground-freezing frost (32 degrees F) so their roots can get established. If you miss planting them at the optimal time, don’t wait for spring or next fall! Bulbs are different from seeds. They will not survive out of the ground indefinitely. Better to take your chances and plant them rather than have them wallow around in a cupboard somewhere. Bulbs are survivors by nature’s design. 

You have good instinct picking daffodils and alliums as they are two of the best critter resistant bulb species. The main "enemy" of bulbs are little rodents like squirrels, chipmunks and voles. You might need to put a big piece of screen over the bulbs if you have a lot of them in your yard. If you have a relatively small number (fewer than 50) plant them rather close to each other, within 12 inches, for a dramatic springtime show. Put down at least 20 bulbs in one area so they stand out as a group. For a naturalistic look, take a couple handfuls and gently toss them on the ground, then plant them where they land.

Daffodils do well at coming back year after year. You may need to replace alliums more often. 

Many daffodil varieties, such as the classic King Alfred, are naturalizers, meaning they will multiply on their own. Plant bulbs in different spots each year and soon you will have a beautiful, low-to-no-maintenance spring display. Thanks for writing, and happy planting!

 Have a gardening dilemma? Please send your questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be selected and answered per week.

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