Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.
By Melanie Palmer
Some of the most beautiful garden displays and cut flowers are produced from spring-planted bulbs, a term that includes corms, tubers and roots.
Most require full sun or only partial shade. Good soil drainage is essential, and most of these plants appreciate richer soil with added organic matter and dislike clay.
Bulbs should be fertilized monthly from shoot emergence until the plants reach full flower. Apply a soluble or bulb fertilizer split over two or three applications. High-nitrogen fertilizers will result in excessive leaf and fewer blooms.
While many of these flowers are not necessarily xeric, or drought tolerant, they have a place in the landscape in “oasis” zones in a planned water-wise garden. Some, especially peonies, are long-lived, cold hardy and survive periods of drought. Bulbs need to be watered after planting and regularly when flower buds first appear.
Unlike most fall-planted bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, some spring-planted flowers (dahlias, rain lilies, some gladioli) are not cold hardy and will need to be “lifted” or dug up after the foliage dies back or after the first frost and stored in vermiculite or similar medium in a cool but frost-free, well-ventilated, dry location. They also can be planted as annuals.
The dinner plate dahlias can reach over 4 feet tall in just a few months and produce blooms almost a foot across. When dahlia tubers are dug up at the end of the season, they may have formed clumps that can be divided into several pieces for next year’s garden. Dahlias struggle in cold soil, so planting when soil temps reach 60 degrees is a good rule.
Cold-hardy to Hardiness Zone 5, gladioli of the nanus type have a different flower form than traditional glads, are typically shorter and look great in clusters and in containers. A relative of glads, Crocosmia, has a beautiful arching form and is a hummingbird magnet. Choose the Zone 5-hardy “Lucifer.” For something really different try the peacock orchid, another glad relative, which must be lifted in the fall.
Drop by the Library Demonstration Garden on from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday to learn more about these flowers and to purchase some for yourself.
Melanie Palmer has been a Colorado Master Gardener since 2012. She lives in La Plata County.