Plant those tulip bulbs as quickly 
as possible

I purchased tulip bulbs but never got them planted. What can I do? Is it too late to maybe put them in planters?

— Marilyn

We’ve had a number of people ask this question lately. What you want to do is to get those bulbs planted as quickly as possible.

Fall planted bulbs such as your tulips really should be planted in late September to early November.

The reason for this is that in the weeks after they’re planted and before the ground freezes they’re doing some growing. It’s mostly root growth but they will often also begin sprouting. They usually don’t start emerging from the ground then so we are often unaware of what’s going on.

This growth really needs to happen before the extended chilling period that winter brings. All of this gets the bulb primed to begin growing as it starts to warm in the spring and to produce beautiful flowers.

Planting them this time of the year doesn’t give them a chance to do this growing before that dormancy requirement.

The first thing to do is to make sure none of your bulbs have started to rot. Give your bulbs a gentle squeeze to make sure that they’re firm and not mushy or a dried out husk.

When you’re planting them, the most important thing is to make sure they are in well-drained soil. That can be a bit tricky with our heavy clays.

Bulbs (especially tulips) require good drainage and really need well-aerated soil to thrive and persist for more than a few years.

If the soil stays too wet, they’ll struggle and often rot away into nothing. This is why we so strongly recommend that people do a GREAT job of amending the soil, especially below where the bulb will be planted so water drains down past the bulb.

We usually recommend that you use a somewhat coarse, low salt organic amendment such as Soil Pep or compost. Mix it half and half with your soil.

As I said before, be sure to mix it well below the bulb. If the bulb is going to be planted 5 inches underground, dig that 5 inches and then go another 12 inches below that to mix in the organic matter.

After they’re planted, be sure to water them in well. Even though the soil is probably going to be pretty moist right now, it helps to settle the soil and ensures that there’s good moisture down deep for the roots to grow.

Put some mulch on top of the ground over the bulbs to help hold the water in and to moderate soil temperatures.

Sometimes, when they’re planted late like this, tulips come up normally, but will have short flowers and sparse, deformed blossoms this year. You may even lose a few bulbs.

However, the ones that grow will get back on schedule later this year and give you the beautiful results you’re looking for next spring.

My roses are bothered by aphids. This spring I would like to spray them with dormant oil and Malathion.

— Leon

Malathion is an excellent choice for aphid control. It’s an old insecticide but has pretty low toxicity and is dynamite on aphids.

I do have concern about the dormant oil. I’ve seen some phytotoxicity (burning, death of tissue) on the green canes of roses with a dormant oil spray. It doesn’t happen very often, but I’m just cautious about it.

You would be better to use what is known as a “super refined” oil. They’ve removed more of the sulfur impurities which makes this oil safer to use on sensitive crops.

Just mix the two products together according to each of their label directions and you should get a great head start on those aphids this year.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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