You want your spring flowers to look pretty, but what’s the best way to design them?
How do you make the biggest impact?
In this week’s post, you’ll find 3 simple tips for spring bulb garden design. Use these tips when you plant your bulbs in the fall, so you can get a pretty look in the spring.
Plus, I’ve included a bonus tip on bulb planting… because gardening in the high-elevation West is an adventure, y’all!
For this article, let’s say you want to plant spring flowers in selective places in your yard.
For example, you want to plant them along a walkway or add pops of color through your garden.
We’ll assume you DON’T want to fill an entire garden bed with a mass planting of bulbs. (Your design approach will likely be different for a mass planting.)
I 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 into these tips on spring bulb garden design.
Design tip #1: You can create visual interest when you plant bulbs in small groups.
Translation: It looks really pretty!
For most plants, you dig a hole, and you place 1 plant in the hole.
But spring flowers can look lonely or out of place when you see a single flower only.
Instead, you can make a bigger impact with your spring flowers when you plant them in small clusters or groups.
And hey, we want some “wow” factor!
This means you’ll place a number of bulbs in a hole — rather than just 1 individual bulb per hole.
Design tip #2: Flowers look really good when they’re planted in odd numbers.
They look really good in sets of 3, 5, 7 or 9 plants.
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. Place more than 1 bulb in the hole.
Here are common questions that come up about this:
- “What if I have an even number of bulbs?” If you’re buying a package of bulbs, you’ll often end up with an even number, like 12, 20 or 50 total bulbs. Do your best to achieve odd numbers where you can, but it’s 100% okay to plant an even number of bulbs in 1 or 2 holes.
- “What if I don’t have that many bulbs?” Try small groupings of 3 to 5 bulbs. They should still look good.
- “How far apart do you place the bulbs in the hole?” It varies by plant. Generally, you want to give the bulbs some space, rather than having them touching each other. With tulips, for example, you may want to space your bulbs 2″ to 5″ apart in the hole.
Design tip #3: Plant the same colors together for big pops of color.
Let’s say you’ve purchased several colors (or “varieties”) of spring flowers.
You can create vibrant pops of color when you group the same colors together.
This means you may want to plant 1 color per grouping.
For example, let’s pretend you bought bulbs for pink tulips and for 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!
And yes, there are times when mixing the bulbs together may make sense for you. For example:
- If you bought a bag of pre-mixed bulbs, those bulbs are likely designed to look great together. Mix away!
- 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.
BONUS tip #4: Be careful planting bulbs in hot spots in your garden.
We’re gardening at elevation in the intermountain West. This means that the sun is very intense on our flower plants — especially in certain parts of our yards.
Let’s say you want to plant your spring flowers along a sunny, south-facing or western-facing structure (like a wall, fence or building).
The temperatures can get hotter here than other parts of your yard.
In garden lingo, this is known as a “heat sink.”
Think of it like a little micro-climate in your yard.
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.
Your flowers may want to emerge too early.
They become vulnerable to freeze damage.
If your flowers are getting ready to bloom and the temperatures plummet for a few days, it can nip your flowers’ buds for that year.
Some years, you may not have an issue.
But other years?
You may need to babysit your plants.
I had purple allium planted along a sunny, south-facing fence.
We had a bad year of freeze damage. The allium had brown leaves and shriveled up buds. I realized I should have taken extra steps to protect them.
You’ll have less work if you avoid planting bulbs in these hot spots.
Related tips that may interest you:
- 5 Helpful Tips for Buying Spring Flowering Bulbs in the Fall
- Popular Spring Flowers for Western States… You Plant in the Fall
- “Will Snow Kill My Spring Flowers Like Tulips? Should I Protect Them?”
- “What Do I Do With Tulips After They’ve Flowered?”
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