Buying Bulbs

Bulbs are great for starter gardens and established gardens alike. Bulbs are incredibly easy to buy and plant. Hardy, or spring-flowering, bulbs have roots that are tough enough to handle even frozen soil, and they will greet you in the spring, year after year, with just a little water, plant food and mulch to keep them growing.

Bulbs are similar to seeds, as they are dormant and can be stored for months, and they are buried in the ground, later giving rise to a plant. A bulb differs from a seed in being much more developed. Each bulb is a self-contained plant in the making, with all the cells required to produce roots, stems, leaves and flowers as well as the energy to make them come alive. It’s this very self-sufficiency that makes them so easy to grow, with an almost guaranteed success rate.

The bigger the bulb, the better the bloom

It is easy to inspect a bulb for quality, no matter where you shop. A simple rule is “the bigger the bulb, the better the bloom.” Look for bulbs marked “flowering” or “top” size. Bargain bulbs may be considered if you’re looking for quantity, but caveat emptor.

What to look for

Inspect your bulb’s integrity. Look for firm, large bulbs that have a smooth and unmarred surface. Beware of bulbs that seem mushy or tender, or are shriveled or discolored. These could be signs of age, rot or infestation by insects or disease. A dry, loose outer skin on the bulb is normal and will not affect the bulb’s potential in any way.

Each bulb produces one flowering stem per growing tip. Tulip bulbs have a single growing tip. Daffodils are sometimes sold with two or three growing tips per bulb. The double- and tripled-nosed bulbs are a better buy than the single; each bulb will produce more flowers. Of course, plenty of other varieties of bulbs like grape hyacinth, are planted in fall and come up in the spring. Choose a mix of color and height, or simply buy many of the same style for a bright display on a border or boulevard. It is hard to go wrong with these easy-care flowers.

Once you’ve got your bulbs, see our step-by-step project for how to plant them — before the ground gets too cold. You’ll have something to look forward to come spring, besides the nice weather.

Allium (large) Spring & summer 4-10 Fall
Anemone Early spring 6-9 Fall
Calla Lily Spring-summer 9-10 Fall
Crocus Winter-sptring 3-10 Early fall
Daffodil Winter-spring 4-10 Early fall
Freesia Spring-summer 9-10 Fall
Iris (Dutch) Early-late spring 5-10 Early fall
Iris (Bearded) Early-late spring 7-10 Early fall
Peony Spring 3-8 Early fall
Tulip Early-late spring 3-10 Fall/spring