Carol O'Meara - Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara – Colorado State University Extension

BOULDER COUNTY – One of the best things a gardener can do for themselves is shake off the end-of-season blues, get out, and get planting.  What you pop into the ground now will result in an invigorating, eye-popping start to next spring’s season when the bulbs you plant come out to play.

Dig deep into your well of stamina, get out the trowels, your kneeling cushions and startz planting: finally the time has arrived to pop those bulbs in the ground.

For best success, keep these tips in mind:

– With bulbs, size matters. Choose large, well-formed bulbs that are blemish free.
– Plant bulbs when soil temperatures are cool, 55 to 58 degrees.
– Dig holes four times the height of the bulb, and place bulbs tips up.
– There’s no need to fertilize at planting, instead, fertilize in spring when shoots first show.
– Add four inches of mulch to buffer soil temperatures.

What’s hot in bulbs right now:

Foxy Foxtrot tulip. A gorgeous, double-flowered early tulip is an apricot and rose colored stunner. Foxy Foxtrot’s ruffled petals mix well with other colors, especially purples and whites. It grows well in containers so gardeners in deer country can place them up on decks away from munching animals.  Zones 3–8.

Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) are an enchanting group that, as a bonus, is deer resistant. And if you’re thinking daffodils are limited to the single-cup with petals, explore your options: Hoop Petticoats (Bulbocodiums) look like the dresses they’re nicknamed after, with deep, bell-like flowers.

Multi-flowered, nodding Triandus, and single flowered cyclamineus types will woo you with back swept petals (reflexed), or fragrance. And those with split coronas are simply magnificent. Look for the fantastic Tête Bouclé, a two-toned jewel of yellow and orange. The double blossoms arrive early to midseason. Or add in the large, ruffled cups of Tromba Rosa, with its orange-pink trumpet and white petals. Zones 3–8.

Double flowers aren’t limited to tulips or daffodils; hyacinths have them too. With Blue Tango, hyacinth lovers get a densely packed display of the perfumed bulb.  They’re harder to find, so if you’re looking to add them, shop now.

Earning the name Crown Imperial for good reason, Fritillaria imperialis’ tall, tufted stalks cause strolling neighbors to stop and stare.  Wreathed in hanging, bell-shaped blooms, the shoots unfold like an alien plant seen on a science fiction show.  Unusual in many gardens, this bulb is a sure winner of hearts when planted in clumps of three to five.

But these bulbs are temperamental. If bruised in shipping they rot instead of thrive, so check the quality closely when you purchase or receive yours from mail order.  Plant in full sun with good drainage. Zones 4–7.

Our Colorado Master Gardener program is currently taking applications for the spring class. If you are interested in helping others garden, our program is for you!  Classes run January through March and will be held every Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please call 303.678.6238 for an application.

Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, or visit

By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension