How to plant a bulb

By Ann Barnes.
Photos: Ann Barnes and Connie Winstead

Finding the first spring flower is always a thrill. Many of my favorite early bloomers are spring flowering bulbs. We all recognize crocus, daffodils, and hyacinths, but there are many more choices available. Bulbs can provide blooms of varying sizes and colors from February through early summer, and can be tucked in between existing plants in your garden or planted en masse. If you are planning to add some to your garden, now is the time to begin planting.

Picking your favorite spring flowering bulbs may be the hardest part of the planting process! Consider flowering time, height, and color when planning your garden. Some bulbs are relatively pest-free, while others (such as crocus and tulip) are considered delicacies to rodents and deer. Most tulips do not return year after year in our climate. Some bulb (and corm, rhizome, and tuber) descriptions and suggestions can be found here. Choose bulbs that are firm, not mushy or soft, and free of mold.

Daffodil, Hyacinth, and Crocus bulbs with the top of each bulb pointing upward

Bulbs have a top and a bottom. The stem emerges from the pointed end, so plant bulbs with this end up. If your bulbs are packaged with planting instructions, follow the guidelines. A general rule is to plant bulbs less than 1″ in height at a depth of 5″ and larger bulbs at a depth of 8″.

Most bulbs require full to partial sun, well drained soil, and a pH between 6 and 7. The planting bed in these photos was amended earlier this year.

First, remove mulch (if any) from the planting area.


If adding bulbs to an existing garden, you can plant in individual holes. Simply use a trowel or bulb planting tool and dig to the proper depth.


This is the bulb planter we used in this demonstration. Other styles are available. A trowel works too – there’s no need to head to the garden center for a fancy tool, but this one is pretty cool.


If your trowel or tool isn’t marked, it’s a good idea to measure to make sure you’re planting deeply enough. If bulbs are planted too shallowly, they may be more susceptible to  damage by frost, animals, or exuberant gardening.


Place the bulb in the hole, top side up. Then cover, water in, and replace mulch.


Are you planting lots of bulbs? Ditch the tiny tools and pick up a shovel. Your arms will thank you. Dig down to the required depth. If your soil needs to be amended, work some organic material in now. Fertilizer can be added now or in spring.


It’s a good idea to check your depth before planting.


Place your bulbs in the hole. Large bulbs should be spaced 3-6″ apart, while smaller bulbs can be closer together. You can interplant bulbs of similar plant heights if desired. Cover, water in, and mulch.