growing daffodils
Drifts of daffodils spred on their own on this grassy hillside. Then wildflowers rise to hide the daffodil foliage.
| Credit: Art Maripol

As with most good things, beautiful blooms come to those who wait. Who better to understand the art of cultivating patience than expert bulb growers Brent and Becky Heath of Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Gloucester, Virginia? Brent's grandfather started growing daffodils in this area back in 1900. Now, the couple's retail nursery specializes in daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and other spring-flowering plants. Here, Becky shares her tips for planting bulbs in autumn so they'll put on a spring show.

Schedule Your Flowers

"Choose what bulbs to plant based on when you would like to have blooms," says Heath. "Almost all have selections that will flower at different times, depending on the weather. If you want early-spring blooms, plant leucojums, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths. For late-spring flowers, plant alliums, foxtail lilies, and anemones, which normally arrive just as tulips are on the wane."

Planting Bulbs in Garden
Credit: Ralph Anderson

Pick a Prime Spot

Plant flowers in a location where they will thrive. "Hyacinths, foxtail lilies, daffodils, and tulips prefer sun," says Heath. "Also, daffodils tend to do better in acid soil, and tulips like alkaline soil."

Dig Deep

Heath suggests planting bulbs three times deeper than their actual height. "If it is 2 inches tall, dig a hole 6 inches deep," she says. "Lilies have roots at the bottom of the bulb, but when they surface, their stems also have roots. If planted deeply enough, those stem roots act as anchors to hold up their beautiful heads."

Place Them Right Side Up

"Most of the spring-flowering bulbs have a flat bottom and a pointy end; make sure the pointy end is up," says Heath. "But on some, like anemones, it can be difficult to tell the top from the bottom. Plant those on their sides, as if you're putting dinner plates in the dishwasher. When the bulbs begin to emerge, they all have green leaves, so it's hard to tell what color they will be until they bloom."

WATCH: Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Daffodils

Remember to Mulch

"When the bulbs are dormant in the summer, they prefer to nap in dry beds," says Heath. "Place a drought-resistant companion plant next to the bulbs to shade the bed from sunlight and soak up water. Choose flowers like daylilies, peonies, and sun-loving perennials. After planting them, apply a thin layer of mulch to help block weeds."