Bulb Planting 101

Bulbs are specialized stems that store nutrients underground, allowing plants to survive cold winters (like the ones here in Ontario!) and bloom again in the spring. Bulbs can be annual or perennial. 

Edible bulbs include garlic, onion, and chives. I love to grow these as they’re so easy to harvest! They’re simply pulled from the ground when ready. Flower bulbs include tulips, lilies, daffodils, dahlias, and hyacinths. 

One of the best things about bulbs is how easy they are for beginner gardeners to grow and harvest. If you want to grow plants from bulbs but aren’t sure where to start, have no fear! Here are my tips for growing big, beautiful, healthy plants from bulbs.  

Woman holding a basket of garlic bulbs standing beside a house 

Planting  Prep

Choose a Good Spot

  • Choose a sunny, well-draining location to plant your bulbs. Bulbs prefer sandy or loamy soil. 
  • Plant large bulbs behind small bulbs to make sure the small bulbs get enough sunlight. The larger the bulb, the larger the plant. 
  • Bulbs can be planted in containers and raised beds but will need extra mulch insulation to survive winter.
  • Plant flower bulbs in clusters to maximize colour.  

Set a Timeline

  • Plant bulbs 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes or when temperatures hit 15°C & below (Sept/Oct for Zone 5). 
  • Plant bulbs in mid-late spring for summer blooms. 
  • Plant bulbs that bloom at different times in your garden to prolong the blooming season.

How to Plant Bulbs

  1. Dig a hole 2-3 times the height of the bulb (or depth specified by instructions). Ensure the hole is wide enough to fit the bulb. 
  2. Add a teaspoon of Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure into the hole.
  3. Place bulb in hole with pointy end up & roots facing down.
  4. Cover with soil and water well.
  5. Add at least 3" layer of mulch (like Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Wood Chips) to insulate & protect the bulb. 

700g bag of worm manureWoman laying a mulch of wood chips in outdoor garden

Pest Control Tips

Squirrels LOVE to dig up fall bulbs. Use these techniques as a pest deterrent:

  • Add a small amount of dog or human hair in the hole with the bulb.
  • Sprinkle on a soil amendment that smells strongly of ammonia (eg. hen manure, cricket frass).
  • Lay down “chicken wire” on top of the soil after planting bulbs to prevent digging while still allowing bulbs to grow up through the wire in spring). 

Row of single bulb flowers in the left to right order of lily, hyacinth, dahlia, tulip, and daffodil.

These are my secrets to growing great, healthy plants from bulbs. My final tip is to read the instructions specific to your bulbs and make adjustments as needed. 

If you live in Zone 5 like me, remember to get your bulbs in the ground within the next couple of weeks!

Happy planting!