Bethany O'Rear with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System joins us with ideas on fall planting for spring bulbs. The first step is to decide what plants you would like to grow.
One of the most common spring bulbs - the daffodil or narcissus. It adapts nicely to our warm, southern winters. Another favorite is the tulip - treat tulips as annuals and replant them every fall.
Our weather conditions are not favorable for tulips to become perennial. The winters are not cold enough, and the wet springs can lead to bulb rot. Hyacinths and crocus are a couple more options to consider. For the best selection, bulbs should be purchased in the fall. When buying bulbs, one of the most important steps is to check the firmness. Another point to consider is bulb size. Typically, the larger the bulb is, the larger the flower. After you have made your selections, they must remain cool until planting. Store them at around 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best time to plant is late October to late December for the majority of Alabama.
As you prepare to plant, there are several things to remember. Good drainage is a must for spring flowering bulbs. You may need to incorporate organic matter if you have a heavy clay soil. If you have a well-drained sandy soil, you still may need to add organic material to increase the soil's ability to hold nutrients and water. A soil test is best but, bulbs can be grown successfully for the first season using a slow-release complete fertilizer. This should be mixed into the rooting area at time of planting. Plant small bulbs - those around one inch in height - about 4 to 5 inches deep and space them 1 to 2 inches apart. Large bulbs - those 2 inches in height and greater - should be spaced 3 to 6 inches apart and planted 6 to 8 inches deep. Once planting is completed, cover the bed with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. Mulch insulates the soil, aids in maintaining even soil moisture, and prevents mud from spattering the flowers. If you have a dry fall, you should water the planting area appropriately.