If you are one of those people who gets excited for the surge of color that Spring yields, you have no doubt thought about adding your own color burst to your property at some point. The problem is that you can't plant your favourite perennials in the Spring when they all crop up, you need to quell your excitement until the Fall comes to actually put them in the ground. There are many different species and variations of bulbs, so we will focus on a few perennial Spring flowering bulbs that will give you colour in April-May, depending on the temperatures. Perennial means that these flowers, with proper care, will come back year after year, giving you multiple years of beautiful blooms without needing to re-plant.
Hardy Spring flowering bulbs need to be planted in the Fall as soon as the weather turns cool, on the West coast of BC this is generally around October. They need a period of cold in order to flower and if they are planted while it is still warm they may start to grow prematurely. They grow best in rich well-drained, loosened soil. For soils with a higher clay content, add organic material like compost, manure or peat moss to loosen and improve the nutrients available to new bulbs. Certain fertilizers will improve flowering, like bonemeal or superphosphate. The fertilizer should be mixed with the soil in the bottom of the bed where the roots will take. For proper ratios of soil to fertilizer, reference the bulb packaging, ask the garden expert where you purchase your bulbs, or look it up online. Depth of planting varies with species as well, anywhere form 3-4 inches to 12-15 inches deep. It is integral for all bulbs to be planted with the nose of the bulbs upward. Your flowers won't do well attempting to grow upside down.
Although Fall weather will likely offer a natural supply of moisture for your bulbs, they do need to be watered after planting to initiate growth, but not too much or they could rot. Once their buds poke through in the Spring, you want to give them additional water if rain is not around to do the job. Just enough to keep the ground moist, about once a week.
Below are a few suggestions on perennial bulbs that are easy to start learning with and will give you a lot of burst for your buck. As there are several different variations of these plants, you do need to consult your local nursery to make sure you are purchasing bulbs that are suited to Fall planting and Spring blooming.
Daffodils // These bright blossoms are often the first to appear in the Spring. Their colours generally range between yellow, orange, and white, and are sometimes a mix. Their blooms are like little wavy cups centered on six equally sized petals. Daffodils are great in between shrubbery or as a border flower, and can do well in shadier spots. They can be seen growing wildly in fields, as they will multiple their bulbs as the seasons pass. However, if you want them to be in any sort of pattern, like in a garden border, it is smart to space bulbs about 3-6 inches apart initially. This gives them room to multiply and not crowd any other companions.
Tulips // If you are looking for a rainbow of colours in your yard, you definitely want to pick up several varieties of tulips. From orange to red to deep purple, even stripped pink and white. Tulips love a little more sun than daffodils, so plant them somewhere you can dig deep and allow them plenty of light. They will need some spacing, anywhere from 4-8 inches depending on bulb size. They are very sensitive to over watering, so be careful not to soak them. Like daffodils, they make lovely cut flowers so they can add colour to your home both outside and inside
Lilies // Six long, graceful petals will curl outwards and break forth a very sweet perfume when these flowers bloom. They also vary greatly in colour, so make sure you are getting bulbs that will compliment the colours you have already chosen for your garden. When cut and placed inside, the scent of lilies will greet you for days. Lilies are sun lovers too and need to be planted deeply. They need spacing equal to 3x their diameter. Planting in groups of 3-5 bulbs will give you a lovely clump of large flowers that would make a nice impact near the entrance to a property or at the corner of a garden bed.
Ornamental Alliums // The Allium family is actually made up of onions, garlic, shallots, and the like. There are hundreds of varieties, and several that produce tall, striking flowers. Their florets create large, pom-pom like balls that can range from white to bright purple. They look almost like little fireworks! They love sun and will multiply naturally as well. One of their greatest qualities is that they do not appeal to deer, although cannot be counted on to deter those four-legged pests from eating other nearby plants. They also look lovely if they are cut and hung to dry.
Keep in mind for all your bulbs that it might take a season or two of growth to put on a really spectacular display of blooms. Most perennial plants need to be left alone for at least 6 weeks after they have flowered so they can soak up all the nutrients they need to survive their more dormant months and bloom again the next year. If you notice your blooms have a season with smaller flowers than normal, this could be a sign that there are now too many bulbs for their square footage. They will need to be dug up and re-distributed right away. You can even give them away as gifts! Provided the recipient will plant them immediately.
Hopefully this will get you on your way to many seasons of colour. Remember to always consult your local nursery for any specific care and planting instructions for variations in species and make sure you are purchasing the correct bulbs for the time of year. Happy planting!