Walker: Plant bulbs now for a colorful spring

U OF I MASTER GARDENERNovember 7, 2013 

A ranunculus


Now that we’ve had our first snow, it’s time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Your favorite nursery in the Treasure Valley has bulbs or you can order them online from a number of vendors.

Tulips and daffodils are the two best-known spring bulbs. But there are others that you might want to try.

Crocus are the earliest of the spring blooming bulbs.

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They often bloom while there is still snow on the ground. I like to plant them in the lawn for a splash of color after a long winter. They’re short – only 3 to 6 inches tall with smallish flowers — but they pack a colorful punch. When it’s time to give the grass its first mowing of the season, the leaves of the crocus have died back and can be mowed along with the grass.

Snowdrops also bloom in early spring.

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They are 4 to 8 inches tall with small white flowers. While not as colorful as crocus, they do make a statement and can also be planted in the lawn or flower bed.

Hyacinth grow to 8 to 12 inches tall. They bloom in mid-spring and have a much larger splash of color.

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Plant them in complementary colors with tulips that also bloom in mid-spring for a showy display. Do be careful of the smaller grape hyacinth (Muscari), which can be invasive.

Ranunculus is a flower with dozens of petals and they come in many colors. I love them, but they’re tricky to grow.

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They’re hardy in zones 7-9, so they may need to be kept in pots in the garage during the winter in our area. However, they do need six weeks of cool weather (40-50 degrees) in order to sprout and bloom.

A few years ago, I wrote about how to make a poinsettia turn red for the holidays. Last holiday season, a friend gave me a beautiful red poinsettia. It stayed in the house for the winter in a bright location, but no direct sunlight. During the summer, I kept it on the porch in full shade, but bright light. It very slowly lost its red leaves, the last ones falling off at the end of September.

The trick to making the leaves turn red, so I read on more than one university website, is to keep the plant in the dark all but eight hours a day for two months.

Since October 1, I’ve been putting my poinsettia in a closet every evening and getting it back out in the morning. So far, only the leaf stalks (petioles) have turned red. There are a few tiny leaves developing, but they look green so far.

I’m afraid I won’t have a red poinsettia for the holidays.

The plant otherwise looks very healthy and has doubled in size since I received it. I potted it up in September so give it more room to grow.

I’ll keep you posted on whether I get red leaves or not.

If you have particular questions about gardening you’d like to see addressed in this column, send them to highprairielandscapedesign@yahoo.com.

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