Shut Up and Dig

Bulbs are no big deal


There has been a lot of bulb buzz throughout the garden blogosphere over the past month or so. I’ve seen worrying, lamenting, ridiculous hyperbole (from me), excellent advice, and step-by-step documentation. Well, today, I finally did get about 175 of my bulbs in. It took about an hour and a half. I planted hybrid tulips, species tulips, erythronium, and scilla. This is how I do the hybrids. I dig a big hole, about 6-8 inches deep and I throw them in. Then I throw dirt on top. I put 50 in each hole.


For the species, erythronium, and scilla, which I expect to perennialize, I stick a small shovel in the ground and wiggle it bath and forth. Then I throw 3-4 of the tiny bulbs in the resulting hole. These tiny flowers need to be in groups to be noticed. I feel all tulips need to be in large quantities and closely packed for the best effect. Subtlety is not a goal. I also try to be as random as possible when planting these.

So those of you who will be receiving bulbs from me this week (I just sent them) so late in the season, don’t sweat it. Throw them in a hole, cover them, and get ready to astound your neighbors in the spring.

Posted by on November 11, 2007 at 1:09 pm, in the category Shut Up and Dig.
Comments are off for this post

17 responses to “Bulbs are no big deal”

  1. chuck b. says:

    But you make it look so easy!


  2. firefly says:

    The previous owner of our house apparently had the notion that a solo tulip is a gracious addition to a garden. Every spring these poor singletons pop up here and there. No daffodils, no crocus, no snowdrops, just the occasional “Passionale.” Looks pathetic.

    I tend to obsess over spacing with species bulbs, but that’s because I expect them to multiply and I don’t want to have to dig them up and divide them. Ever.

  3. sandra says:

    Indeed you do make it look easy. In future I will not be reading the packet and carefully spaceing the darn things, I will be planting them the Elizabeth way and will probably get a much better show. Whoopee.

  4. Marte says:

    Whoopee indeed! If it weren’t for the squirrels and rabbits, I’d be tempted to try some tulips. Maybe next year.

  5. Carol says:

    I also practice the “big hole” method. Yesterday, I managed to plant a couple hundred tulips and daffodils that way. Now it is on to the smaller, minor bulbs. I’ll use an electric drill and spade bit to plant those.

  6. chuck b. says:

    I use a bulb auger + drill for tight spaces. Otherwise, it’s shovel away a pile of dirt, erm, excuse me, soil, and then I do plant them all right side up (but not after this post), and cover w/ compost-amended dirt/soil. For little bulbs, like onions or ipheion or muscari, I just use my fingers.

  7. eliz says:


    Squirrels and rabbits can be foiled, and not with great difficulty. Some coarse wire fencing laid over the ground after planting and then some organic repellent in the spring.

  8. Peter Hoh says:

    I always believed that tulips were supposed to turn into perennials, but it looks a lot more fun to treat them like annuals.

    I’ll try the “Big Hole” method for the first time this fall.

  9. Oh, I so like this no nonsense attitude! A plant that needs to be treated like a porceline primadonna is boring….

  10. susan harris says:

    50 hybrid tulips in one hole? I bought just 50 for a whole border, so now I’m thinking I should have bought about 300. E, I think you’ve invented a whole new concept in tulip design!

  11. layanee says:

    Simple, basic advice. The gardening world and the world of would be gardeners need more of this! Just garden!

  12. Pam/Digging says:

    You do make it look very easy, Elizabeth. My problem is, where to put a big hole full of 50 bulbs. My garden is pretty well packed with perennials. Do you keep an area of your garden clear for annual displays?

  13. eliz says:

    Yes, these are great areas to then plant annuals, or tender perennials like dahlias, canna, or elephant ear which in our climate have to be taken in.This year, I used really tall palms, (will tolerate shade) surrounded by impatiens. I love annuals and welcome the opportunity to use them anywhere. There are great varieties now.

    Since the tulips don’t need to die back, I can plant the annuals at the perfect time.

    The hole is not all that big either. One big palm pretty much filled it.

  14. I, too, am impressed with the Elizabeth method. I agree with the tight spacing and the clumping, but I put 5 hybrid tulips to a hole, not 50! And I think they make a pretty spectacular show, but possibly I need to rethink. Especially since 350 tulips translates to 70 holes in my plan–a mere 7 in yours.

  15. I like to toss the bulbs from a standing position over the area where they should roughly flower. Then the stab/lean/drop: stab a trowel (or garden spade) in the ground, lean it back, drop the bulb in.

  16. Now I am worried. I got varmints. I saw burrows recently in the former roadside vegetable garden (now frozen) and my new bed along the drive. There were strange holes in the ground by my newly planted Eremurus, Foxtail Lilies.

    Maybe bulbs should be planted like lawn grass seed, enough for the birds and a lawn.

  17. Tracey says:

    Um . . . brilliant! You have just saved this pregnant gardener’s back. Now, off to buy even *more* bulbs. Great post . . . thank you!