February 14th, 2012

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Planting Bulbs

I dragged my feet this fall and failed to plant my daffodils. Is there a problem planting them during the February warm spell?

blog-dougWhat do you have to lose? Plant them and hope for the best—but don’t delay any longer. If your soil is workable, plant the daffodil bulbs outdoors. If the ground is frozen, get a bag of potting soil and plant them in pots.

As you know, spring-flowering bulbs—daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, and the like—are planted in fall so they have three or four months to establish root systems before blooming. Your daffodils will be getting a very late start at that, so if they bloom at all it will likely be later than normal. The key to their future success is their ability to produce sufficient leaves this spring to recharge their energy reserves—and you won’t know for sure if they’re able to do that until they begin growing. Whether they flower or not this spring, they will probably get back on a normal flowering schedule in subsequent years if they put up a good stand of foliage this first year. Daffodils are known to thrive for decades in their preferred growing conditions: a sunny exposure and soil that drains quickly.

Another variable to this situation is where you’ve been storing the bulbs. If they’ve been kept in a cool and humid spot, such as an unheated basement, and the bulbs still appear firm and not shriveled, they are more likely to overcome late planting than if they’ve been stored at room temperature. Good luck! And don’t feel bad; after all, who among us has not discovered an unplanted bag of bulbs in February?  —Doug Hall

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