Who doesn’t love spring-blooming bulbs? I love all of them (well, except for hyacinths) and used to plant a large assortment every fall. Above are shots from my former garden, where I planted tulips, yanked them out after the blooms faded and had the fun of trying new ones in the same spot the next year.

But no more. Now I ONLY plant bulbs that come back year after year and aren’t eaten by squirrels or deer. (Hooray for daffodils!)

And I’ve entirely changed how I arrange them and plant them. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I was a gardening newbie I planted a couple hundred full-sized daffodils (my fave was Ice Follies), one bulb per hole and spaced evenly throughout the garden. It looked ridiculous. So over the years I gradually rearranged them into clumps, masses and sweeps – which we all know look better than one-offs.

Planting bulbs too close together

And I gradually switched to planting bunches of 5-10 bulbs in each hole because I like the look and it’s SO much easier than digging holes for each bulb. This old photo shows the right way to do it. Nowadays I dig smaller holes and plant the bulbs closer together – too close, far closer than the recommended 2-bulb-width apart. Yet, they bloom.

Planting bulbs too shallow

Planting bulbs 3 times the depth of their height is fine for tiny bulbs but when it comes to large daffodils, forget about it. I don’t think I’ve ever planted them as deep as 6″.  Too much work! And yet, those shallow-planted daffodils bloom.

Feeding bulbs

Never done it. Yet they bloom.

Deadheading bulbs


Tying up the daffodil leaves

Yes, I even do this, the tidying chore we’re told will reduce future flowering, though we’re never told by how much. Those Ice Follies I planted decades ago continued to bloom like crazy year after year, despite having their leaves tied up. Sure, they may have bloomed a bit more if I’d followed the rules, but I’d rather get them off the emerging perennials.

Rules I follow, more or less

Helpful advice for some situations is to keep records of what bulbs have been planted and where, which I did recently in the really badly drawing above. As long as I can read it, right? (Most of the bulbs in this garden were sent to me by John Scheepers for review.)

Or, in beds with bulbs with existing bulbs but where I want to plant more the next fall, it’s easier to just take photos of the current spring’s blooms in context. It’s not precise, but close enough.

And I more or less follow the recommendations about planting in late fall, at least by the end of December (here in Zone 7). I know some rule-breakers brag about planting bulbs as late as February to no ill effect, but that much rule-breaking is too much for even me.