In Virginia, usually in early March, green shoots begin to appear on the ground, even on ground that is covered lightly in snow. These shoots are the sign that many people are looking for to indicate that spring is on its way. They are the product of bulb plants that have been underground all winter. They will take several weeks to bloom, at which time spring is well underway.
There are many varieties of plants that are in the bulb families. A bulb is basically next year's flower wrapped up in a brown and papery skin called the tunic. Inside the tunic are immature leaves, scale leaves and flower stems. They will come out of the ground in early spring and will grow to be mature and beautiful flowers. Example bulbs are tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, snowdrops and windflowers.
The United States Department of Agriculture divides the country up into different plant hardiness zones, based on average annual minimal temperatures. Zones are divided in 10 degree F increments. Virginia consists of USDA zones 5b to 8a, which range in average minimal temperatures from -15 degrees F to 15 degrees F. Fortunately, you can plant spring bulbs in all the Virginia zones during the same time of year.
Fall is the optimum time of year to plant spring-flowering bulbs, especially if you live in the colder areas in Zones 5b and 6a. You can continue to plant your bulbs until early December, but if the ground is frozen, it may be a difficult task.
Choose bulbs that are large, heavy and in good shape. The tunics should be smooth and should not be injured. Small bulbs are okay to plant, but know that you might have to wait until the next spring for a bloom.
Plant bulbs in the sun and in soil that is well draining. Adding fertilizer that is a 5-10-10 composite is best. Follow dosing instructions, as each brand of fertilizer is different. Also, read the directions that came with your bulbs to find out how deep and wide you should plant them. Generally, most bulbs are planted 6 to 8 inches deep, and should be placed about 4 inches apart. Bulbs are planted with the point facing up.