23 October 2014

Divide and Plant spring blooming bulbs, garlic, onions

Cool fall temperatures and rain have created an ideal time to divide cold-hardy bulbs, plant garlic, and take care of a few other enjoyable tasks outside.
our Bluebells April 2014

For most gardeners, the word bulb includes bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes.

Spring flowers such as iris, lily, crocus, amaryllis, scilla (bluebells, etc.), daffodils and narcissus, all benefit from being dug up, divided, and replanted every 3 to 5 years.

You may have noticed that established clumps of bulbs have green shoots in the spring but flower only around the outer edge of the planting or produce no flowers at all.

Rather than letting them die out from lack of attention, grab a shovel and dig the clumps by inserting a shovel around the circumference of the planting. Then, carefully insert the shovel beneath the clump and lift the bulbs out. Daffodil clumps can be two or three layers deep; iris rhizomes and roots are shallow.

Place the entire clump of bulbs or corms onto a flat surface where they can be pulled apart and cleaned. Any bulb or corm that appears to be damaged or rotted should be discarded as you break the clump apart into individual pieces.

When you divide iris clumps you will notice that some corms toward the center have no roots on the bottom. They are dead and will not re-grow. Carefully separate the corms from each other, using a sharp knife to remove the little ones on the outer ring. Trim the leaves to one-third their growing height.

Either replant the separated pieces within a couple of days or store them in damp peat-moss away from direct sun and heat. Iris rhizomes are planted barely below the soil with the roots spread out and planted under the soil. The top of the rhizome can be exposed. Press the soil around the roots and water.

Planting depths vary. Chionodoxa (Glory in the Snow) and Galanthus (Snowdrop) 3 inches; Crocus 3-4 inches; Spanish Bluebells 5 inches; Grape hyacinth 4 inches, Tulips 3 to 5 inches depending on size and Daffodils also known as Narcissus 4 to 6 inches depending on size. The pointed end goes on the top and the flatter root end goes into the bottom of the hole.

Fall and spring blooming Crocus bulbs can emerge to the top of the ground when they become too crowded. Saffron crocus blooms in the fall; all the others bloom late-winter to early-spring. They are on sale at www.brecks.com.

If you missed buying spring flowering bulbs, most mail order companies still have some available. Sources include: Touch of Nature (www.touchofnature.com) and Colorblends (www.colorblends.com).

Mail order sources for garlic are sold out of their most popular varieties but these companies still have some and have been reliable for us: Keene Organics (keeneorganics.com) and Sand Hill Preservation (www.sandhillpreservation.com). Locally, Grogg’s Green Barn in Tulsa still had some last week. Garlic heads are broken into sections called seeds for planting; the heads are pulled apart like segments of an orange.

Onion sets can also still be planted. We have ordered from Dixondale Farms in TX (www.dixondalefarms.com). The sets come with instructions.

All of these bulbs, corms, rhizomes, etc. should go into the ground soon so they have time to form roots before the first freeze. Most are planted at least 3-inches apart.

Other than bluebells, these all thrive with 6-hours of sun; bluebells grow and multiply in woodland settings. In catalogs, Spanish bluebells are sold by their new name Hyacinthoides hispanica or their old names Scilla hispanica and Scilla campanulata. Whatever they are called, their late-spring bloom under trees should not be missed.


Afternoon shade is never a problem since our summers are so hot. All bulbs need to be watered-in after planting.

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