With the winter white making way for the first green of spring it’s hard to not get excited about gardening again. It may not be too late to add some early colour with Tulips and prepare for a season of dramatic hues with other bulbs and tubers that can be planted in the spring. Let’s talk about a few of our favourites; Peonies, Dahlia’s and Gladiolus and we’ll also review a last ditch effort to get some Tulips in for spring.

Before planting any of these beauties you should ensure that you are starting with a good foundation. Read our previous blog on waking up your garden and preparing the soil. In all instances below you will want to get the ground ready by breaking up the soil with a tiller or a pitchfork and adding a good starting fertilizer or compost.

These large fragrant flowers are easy to grow and fairly hardy. They bloom for a long period but only once in early summer. For support be sure to add peony rings early as their enormous heads tend to flop over during the first good rainstorm in June. They can be planted in fall or early spring and they will survive some frost when planted in spring.

Dig a generous-sized hole, about two feet deep and two feet across in well-drained soil in a sunny spot that won’t get too much wind. Place root at least 30 inches away from neighbouring perennials as they do not like to compete with other plants for food.
Set the complete root so the eyes face upward on top of the firmed soil, placing the root 2 inches maximum below the soil surface. The deeper hole beneath being filled with loose dirt gives the roots room to spread quickly. Make sure not to bury them too deep. Water well and get ready for beautiful colour.

Dahlias grow to a height of approximately 30 to 90 inches and come in a number of different varieties. Some blooms being as large as 16” across and others as small as 3”. Planting the tubers in pots allows you to get an early start and in turn you will get to see colour sooner!
Start the tubers in pots four to six weeks before the last expected spring frost date, dahlia’s are quite sensitive and will not survive even the lightest frost. Mix garden soil with potting soil at a ratio of 2-1 respectively for best results.

When you are planting be sure to place the tuber horizontally about 6” from surface. Place the pot in a sunny window and keep the soil moist at all times once new growth emerges from the soil. Keep them damp but not wet, they prefer drier soil conditions.
When you are ready to transfer the Dahlias to the garden bed, wait until two weeks after the last spring frost date. Begin to move the pot during these two weeks prior to transfer to the garden. The additional time spent outdoors in the pots helps harden off the plants.
If planting directly from the package; lay the tubers horizontally in the soil as outlined in the potting instruction above but placing about 18″ to 24″ apart. Or take the tuber from your pot and plant with green shoots slightly exposed. Dahlia’s need the warm summer sun so choose a bright location in your garden.

Gladioli are known for their brightly coloured, ruffled blooms and they also serve as excellent cut flowers in arrangements. Make sure to plant gladiolus bulbs in the spring once danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. Choose an area with good drainage and full sun where you would like to add height.
Plant your bulbs 4 to 8 inches deep with the pointed end facing up. Space the bulbs 3-6 inches apart. Cover loosely with soil and water thoroughly.
If you’re planting tall varieties, be sure to stake them at planting time. Be careful not to damage the bulbs with the stakes. It will take about 60 days from the time gladioli are planted to root, grow and bloom.

So you forgot last fall? Here is a way to force blooms this spring. Tulip bulbs typically require at least 14 weeks of cool weather in order to produce flowers. With the cold winter this year it stands to reason that you might have enough time trick the bulbs into bloom. You can start the bulbs outside of the garden bed in a separate container as the ground will still likely be much too hard to give you an early enough start.

In early March fill a flower pot approximately half full with potting soil. Ideally the pot would be six to eight inches in diameter so you can plant several bulbs together. Place your tulip bulbs in the pot with the point facing up. Lightly cover with additional soil and water but do not soak.
Place in your garage or outside shed for 2 weeks prior to moving outside into a sheltered area out of direct sunlight. After approximately 10 weeks outside you should be able to see some green shoots coming out the top or roots coming out of the bottom. Once this happens the ground should be thawed enough to begin turning the soil and transfer the bulbs to your garden.
Space the holes 4 to 6 inches apart, and dig them about 8 inches from the base of the bulb. Cover the bulbs with a layer of fresh soil.

There’s no guarantee this method will work but the simple beauty of tulips are worth the effort. When the blossoms die leave the plant until the stem turns dry and brown before cutting off with scissors, this gives the bulb a chance to fully charge before going dormant until next year.

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