Growing Flowers From Bulbs

Growing Flowers From Bulbs

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Dr. Elwood Kalin, professor of horticulture, Washington State University, Pullman
If you like flowers and enjoy watching them grow, this 4-H project is for you. Growing flowers is no mystery if you “learn by doing” as the 4-H slogan says.
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Growing Flowers from Bulbs

If you like flowers and enjoy watching them grow, this 4-H project is for you. Growing flowers is no mystery if you “learn by doing” as the 4-H slogan says.

In the flower growing project you will learn about flowers from bulbs. You will learn how to:

  • Choose bulbs that will grow well.
  • Get the soil ready for planting.
  • Plant 12 or more bulbs (at least two kinds).
  • Keep the plants watered and weeded.
  • Care for cut flowers.
  • Compare the quality of flowers.
  • Give a demonstration or make an exhibit.

About Bulbs

Bulbs that grow and bloom in the spring are daffodils, tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, bulb irises, crocuses, and snowdrops. They are planted in the fall and come up in the spring.

Summer bulbs are gladiolus and tuberous begonias. They are planted in the spring and bloom all summer.

All flowers from bulbs come in many kinds and colors.

Bulbs are sometimes called “good natured” because they are easy to grow. This is because a bulb is a storehouse of food.

The leaves do their work of making living matter from the plant foods in the soil and air. This living matter is stored through the winter months in the bulbs.

Bulbs have the habit of storing food from one season to the other because of the conditions in which they grow. They are able to make plenty of food supplies during the summer months when there is warmth, moisture, and rich soil. But, because they like to open their flowers in the sun shine they store their food during the winter and wait until spring and summer to bloom.

Choosing Bulbs

Choose bulbs that are firm and solid and have no mold or spots. Large bulbs are usually better than small ones. Choose colors that will go with the rest of the garden or yard.

If you buy bulbs, buy from a dealer who sells good bulbs. Cheap bulbs usually have poor quality. Your leader can help you find a garden store or nursery. Be sure to avoid bulbs of

invasive species, which are readily available on the Internet. Check the Washington State Noxious Weed page for current listings.

When and Where to Plant

Spring-flowering bulbs should be planted before the first of November. Summer-flowering bulbs should be planted in late May (begonia) or early June (gladiolus).

Bulbs grow best where they can get lots of sunshine and plenty of moisture. Ask your parents to help you choose a place.

Bulbs can be grown in clumps or in rows. Keep in mind the color, height, and blooming time of the plants so they will go with the rest of the garden or yard. Look at the table on page 5.

Planting Bulbs

Use a shovel, trowel, or dibble to create a hole for each bulb. Some bulbs are planted deeper than others. Look at the table on page 5 to see how deep to plant the kinds of bulbs you have. Then set the bulbs, pointed ends up, firmly into the ground.

Plant bulbs close together (3 or 5 inches apart) if you want thick masses of flowers. Plant them farther apart (6 or 8 inches) for rows.

After the bulbs are covered with soil, soak the soil with water to settle it around the bulbs. Mulch the area with organic mulch to a depth of 2-4 inches. Do not add fertilizers or other amendments unless a soil test report indicates a nutrient deficiency.

Caring for the Plants

Mulching keeps the bulbs from alternately freezing and thawing in the winter. During the rest of the year, mulch reduces weed growth, moderates soil temperature, and protects soil tithe (consistency).

If weeds appear, remove as needed. Weeds rob plants of food and water. If your plants have disease or insects ask your county agent what to do.

Cutting Flowers

Cut flowers in the morning or in the evening. Use a sharp knife to cut the stems. A pair of scissors crushes the stem instead of cutting it sharply.

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Copyright 2007 Washington State University

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