What to Do With Unplanted Spring Bulbs

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Spring bulbs are any bulbs that bloom in the spring, such as tulips, irises, crocuses and daffodils. They are planted in the fall because they need a period of cold weather before they can bloom. Each bulb contains a plant that feeds on the nutrients in the bulb. They are ideally planted in the fall as night-time temperatures start going below 50, but what can you do if you haven't planted on time and end up with unplanted spring bulbs? Don't fret, there are several options.

Test the Bulbs

  • Make sure the bulbs are worth keeping. A good rule of thumb is to check the bulb's consistency with a squeeze test. Gently squeeze the bulb in the palm of your hand. If the bulb feels firm, then keep it or plant it, but if it is soft or very dried out, throw it away.

Plant the Bulbs

  • If they pass the test, plant the bulbs in the ground as normal. They may not flourish the same way they would have if planted earlier, but they will eventually bloom. There is a point after which planting the bulbs won't be very effective, though it varies from bulb to bulb. As long as there is still a month or two left of winter, some of the bulbs you plant might be able to bloom in the spring.

Store the Bulbs

  • Storing them is the most popular solution to dealing with unplanted bulbs, though it is not necessarily the best. It is difficult to mimic a bulb's ideal climate, and they may end up rotting. If you do decide to store them, put them in a cardboard box. Make sure none of the bulbs are touching each other and put a layer of newspaper in between stacked bulbs. If you store a box of spring bulbs in a refrigerator for the winter and quickly plant them when the ground outside thaws, many will bloom. You can also store the box in a cool closet or garage, but you may not get good results if you plant those bulbs in spring.

Plant Bulbs in a Container

  • You might want to plant the bulbs in a container instead of trying to put them in frozen ground. Don't use a terra cotta container or any other material that will crack or break in the winter. Wooden barrels are often used for planting bulbs. The container must have holes at the bottom for drainage. Put a layer of gravel on the bottom to help the soil drain, and then layer soil and bulbs until you're near the top, where you should put an inch of mulch. The mulch can be removed in spring, but it will help protect the bulbs during winter. Put the container in a place where the bulbs won't freeze. They do need to experience winter chilling, however. You might keep the container on an enclosed porch or in a garage. When the weather warms up, move the container to a focal point in your garden or to your deck.

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