And here I thought that crocuses didn’t like my garden! To be fair, I never tried the yellow ones before, but I also thought the lack of acidity in the soil didn’t agree with them. Apparently I was wrong.

I’ll take the opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions about spring bulbs.

Shade tolerance

Because they come from the forest, people assume they will tolerate a fair amount of shade. They will tolerate it, but they won’t bloom. Remember that the trees are still bare when these beauties bloom, early in spring, and that makes the forest floor quite sunny and bright. They perform much better in the sunshine. As a general rule, the “shade tolerant” label basically means they won’t die. Immediately.

No maintenance

Just because you don’t see them for three quarters of the year, that doesn’t mean the bulbs don’t have needs. They really don’t tolerate drought well, so remember to water them deep and often during the summer, and like all plants benefit from a good feeding every now and then. They should get a good helping of bone meal when they are planted, and a few handfuls for top dressing in the fall. They also need to keep their foliage until it dies down naturally, which creates a little bit of a challenge for the neat and tidy gardener.

Yearly planting

Bulbs are treated almost like annuals, because it is assumed that between the ones that get eaten over the fall and the ones that die down due to exhausting their food reserves, drought or being accidentally dug up, there will not be many of them left from one year to the next. If they find favorable conditions, they will live for many years and the clumps will grow larger, just like they do in the wild. I have a clump of white hyacinths that doubled in size since I planted it five years ago. I noticed it is much easier to plant at the right depth and keep alive the potted bulbs with foliage, and this was one of them. Also it is planted in full sunshine, in an area that is fed and watered regularly and has benefited from amending the soil.

Short blooming season

The tulips are exclusively responsible for this criticism, most spring bulbs stay in bloom for weeks, the grape hyacinths will don flowers for almost two months, and so will some of the summer bulbs, like liatris. Depending on the cultivar, lilies can have a reasonably long blooming time. Anyway, the bulbs that lack in range make it up in volume, so by all means, do plant irises.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”; "Letters to Lelia", "Door No. 8", "Fair"; "A Year and A Day"; "The Plant - A Steampunk Story"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born this way: and, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might find it useful in their own gardening practice.