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October 14, 2011

Adding Bulbs to you Landscape

- by Debra Anchors

Lily bulbs
Bulbs are beloved by many gardeners due to their assorted array of hues and the fact that they come back again and again for many seasons with very little care. Add-in the bonus that bulbs can be divided and added to other areas of the garden and you will have found a beautiful and economical option to include in your landscape.

Dividing Bulbs proliferate easily, but since they do, bulbs take over increasing amounts of space as each season passes. A shortage of growing space will cause perennial bulbs to stop flowering - exactly what you don’t want. An opportunity to share with friends, by gifting them with part of your garden, is one of the most wonderful things about bulbs.  You will need to share your bulbs every few years. Closely observe your garden in the spring to identify bulbs that need dividing.  Clumps of plants that are not flowering well are ready to the split.

Bulbs are identified depending on their type. There are five different categories of bulbs — true bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes and tuberous roots. Splitting methods for each category are different. Your garden center staff is a wonderful source of information but I have outlined a few tips here.

True bulbs To care for this category of bulbs, separate the original bulb from the others, which usually grow at the base of the original. Carefully remove the debris from the bottom of each bulb where the roots grow and then replant them immediately.

Rhizomes New growth sprouts from the sides of the original. Divide them by splitting the sections at natural divisions – you will be able to see the natural point. Make sure that when you separate these sections that there is at least one growth point on it and then replant them.

Some examples of rhizomes include iris and lily-of-the-valley.

Tubers - Tubers can be very tough to divide, requiring a blade or shovel with a sharp edge. They don’t have a distinct separation point; to split tubers, cut it into more than two sections making sure that each has a growth point(s). Examples of tubers include caladiums, hosta, oxalis and anemones.

Tuberous rootsTuberous roots have multiple growth points - some species form separate plants that you can easily pull apart. Divide tuberous roots while the plant is in its growth stage. Tuberous roots include dahlias, hibiscus and begonia.

Corms Corms have an engorged stem base and are not true bulbs. When separated, notice a corm doesn't have storage rings when cut in half.

Small cormels grow on top of the original. To divide, just separate the new cormels from its parent. Gladiolus and crocus are examples of corms.

Here’s How . . .

* Excavate bulbs using a shovel. Lightly introduce the shovel into the ground an inch or two outside a clump of bulbs and lift them out of the ground.

* Brush away excess dirt and then separate the bulbs from each other.

* Once you have removed the bulbs, work some blood meal into the base of the hole. Blood meal will also keep squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents away from your freshly excavated beds.

* Return half the quantity of bulbs back into the hole. Allow two to three bulb widths of space around each bulb.

* Move the extra bulbs to another part of the garden or gift them to friends and family.

* If you dig your garden’s bulbs in spring, mark the space with something throughout the summer so you will be reminded of the location. You don’t want to mistake your newly planted bed as vacant space.

Don't miss the article I wrote about choosing and caring for bulbs.

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