Lay bulbs in the ground now for glorious early spring |

Lay bulbs in the ground now for glorious early spring

Sally J. Taylor
Community/Features Editor

Plant now for an early spring display of colorful tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and many more.

Carson-area residents have about two weeks left to get bulbs in before the ground is too frozen to work, according to Sharon Pranzo, a manager and bulb buyer at Greenhouse Garden Center in Carson City. Now is also the time to plant onions and other edible bulbs.

Pranzo has a few more tips to ensure successful blooms.

– Many area gardens have problems with deer or ground squirrels that dig up and eat bulbs, especially tulips.

“Daffodils are pretty resistant to most critters,” Pranzo said. “If you want to plant tulips, think about protecting them.”

Wire cages ” chicken wire is fine ” and deterrents such as commercial products made with garlic, blood meal and other products can keep the animals away and bulbs protected.

– Daffodils also are stronger flowers than tulips and hold up better in a windy area. A strong wind such as is common in Washoe Valley can strip tulips of their petals.

– Daffodils and narcissus are two names for the same plant. Daffodil is the common name and narcissus is the botanical name.

– When shopping, choose bulbs that are firm, with no signs of mold. If a package contains even a spot of mold, choose a different package. However, a little bit of green starting to peak out of the bulb is still OK to plant.

– Check your soil. While moist, squeeze the soil into a ball. If it stays in a ball, it’s too heavy and will need to be amended.

“Heavy soil is death to a bulb,” Pranzo said. “It will rot over winter.”

– Add fertilizer when the bulbs are planted. Phosphorus, the primary nutrient for bulbs, does not move through soil very well, she explained. Bone meal sprinkled on top of the soil tends to stay on top. On the other hand, fertilizer added in the hole during planting, won’t wash away and may last a couple years.

– If you’re looking for scent, look past the tulips, which have little fragrance. Daffodils can be fragrant, but the best choice to fill the air with a sweet bouquet is to plant hyacinths, Pranzo said.

– How deep to plant? Planting instructions are included on packages of bulbs but the rule of thumb is to dig the hole three to four times the width of the bulb.

– Plantings can be formal ” planted in rows with the tallest plants in the back and short ones in front. For something different, try naturalizing bulbs for a wild, informal look. Dig a large hole, 1 to 3 feet wide, and fill with a layer of bulbs about 1 inch apart. Place several groups scattered throughout the garden.

– Avoid outside plantings of freesias, paperwhites (a variety of narcissus) and amaryllis, which are not hardy in Carson’s cold winters.

– Contact Sally J. Taylor at

Amaryllis make a good house plant, spectacular in bloom and a nice green plant the rest of the year.

– Paperwhites, especially, are popular bulbs for indoor plantings to force blooms in midwinter. To force, plant bulbs close together in clean sterile pots with the tips exposed. Soil should be a light mixture of good garden loam, peat moss and sand. Water immediately. Cover with plastic bags with a few breathing holes and refrigerate for 12 to 13 weeks to provide a false winter. Once taken out of refrigeration, the bulbs will bloom in three to four weeks. For continuous winter display, start refrigerating several pots a spaced intervals.

Discard forced bulbs, which are spent from the process and unlikely to bloom again.

While paperwhites and amaryllis are the most popular bulbs to force, the process works on other varieties too.