Wouldn’t it be nice to skip some of the trial and error that comes with planting spring flowers and go straight to gorgeous color?
In this post, you’ll find 3 design tips for planting tulips, daffodils and allium bulbs, so you can get a pretty look in the spring.
For this article, let’s assume you want to plant spring flowers along a walkway or in selective places in your yard, rather than filling an entire garden bed with a mass planting of bulbs.
(Your approach will likely be different for the latter.)
Also, I always like to share upfront: Gardening is personal
It’s your own form of artistic expression.
So, if you prefer to do something different than what I’m suggesting, do what makes you happy!
Okay, let’s jump in.
Tip #1: You can create visual interest when you plant bulbs in small clusters
(Translation: It looks really pretty!)
For most plants, we dig a hole and only 1 plant goes in.
But if you’re strategically placing spring flowers around your garden, you can make a bigger impact when you plant them in small clusters or clumps — rather than just 1 individual bulb per hole.
If you only have a solo tulip or daffodil blooming, it can look a little lonely and out of place.
And hey, we want some “wow” factor!
Flowers look really good when they’re planted in odd numbers, like sets of 3, 5, 7 or 9.
This is known as the “rule of odds.”
Think of it as a helpful guideline, rather than a “you must do this” rule.
But it’s the same principle that’s used in many forms of art and design, from photography, to interior design.
Odd numbers create visual interest. They look good to our eye.
- Odd numbers look natural.
- They feel more dynamic. (They aren’t too matchy-matchy to lose our interest.)
- They don’t compete for our attention, which can happen with even numbers.
- They give us repetition, but with variety.
So, what does this mean for your garden?
Spring flowers look great when you plant them:
- In an odd number of groupings
- With an odd number of flowers in each group
When you plant your bulbs, dig a wider hole, and place more than 1 bulb in the hole.
If you’re buying a package of bulbs, you’ll often end up with an even number: like 12, 20 or 50 total bulbs.
So, it’s 100% okay to plant an even number of bulbs in one or two holes!
You’ll create a bigger impact with more bulbs per hole, but…
If you’re on a budget or you want to try spring flowers to make sure you like them, try small groupings of 3 to 5 bulbs.
They’ll still look good.
Instead of placing the bulbs right next to each other in the hole, give them a little bit of space.
The distance between them will vary slightly by plant.
With tulips, for example, you may want to space your bulbs 2″ to 5″ apart in the hole.
(Of course, if you’re planting a flower bed with hundreds of bulbs, it may make a lot more sense for you to plant just 1 bulb per hole!)
Tip #2: Plant the same colors together for big pops of color
In my last article on spring flowers in Colorado and Utah, we chatted about how you can get longer color if you plant more than one type of tulip, daffodil or allium in your garden.
This helps ensure your flowers will bloom at slightly different times, giving you more continuous color.
This also will help you hedge your bets with our unpredictable western weather.
For example, if some of your tulips get squashed in a heavy spring snowstorm (hellooooo, Colorado!), you’ll still have other tulips that will bloom at a different time.
Let’s say you’ve purchased a couple colors (or varieties) of spring flowers.
You can create vibrant pops of color when you group the same colors or varieties together.
This means it helps to plant 1 color per grouping.
For example, let’s pretend you bought pink tulips and white tulips:
- Group the pink tulips together.
- Put the white tulips in different clusters.
You can still plant the different clusters near each other for pretty variety!
(If you’re doing a mass planting and filling an entire garden bed with bulbs, you may want to mix all the colors together. It depends on the look you’re going for.)
Tip #3: Be careful planting bulbs in hot spots in your garden
Because we’re gardening at elevation in states like Colorado and Utah, the sun is really intense on our flower plants … especially in certain parts of our yards.
If you want to plant your spring flowers along a sunny, south-facing or western-facing structure (like a wall, fence or building), you may be placing them in a “heat sink.”
Think of it like a little micro-climate in your yard.
The temperatures can get hotter here than other parts of your yard, and sometimes, this can create tough conditions for your flowers.
So, what does this have to do with your bulbs?
When you plant your bulbs in these hot spots, your bulbs may think it’s time to get the party started earlier in the spring.
The ground may warm up faster, and your flowers may want to emerge too early.
Snow isn’t usually an issue.
Spring flowers are very resilient.
The bigger issues are with our wild temperature swings and multiple days of frigid daytime temps when your flowers are getting ready to bloom.
If you plant your bulbs in these spots, they’re more vulnerable to freeze damage
Some years, you may have no issues.
But other years?
You may need to babysit your plants.
I had purple allium — the spring flower that looks like a ball on a stick — planted along a sunny, south-facing fence.
After 1 brutal year of freeze damage (oopsie! brown leaves; shriveled up buds), I realized I had to take extra steps to protect them.
You’ll set yourself up for happier spring flowers (with less work) if you avoid planting bulbs in these hot spots.
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