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Succession with Bulbs

Iris danfordiae buds with emerging Apricot Beauty tulip leaves



I don’t have a big garden, and I try to get the most mileage out of my dirt, pots, and labor. It’s easier to do all this if you put more than one kind of plant in the same space—but they have to be the right combinations.

This isn’t a new idea. But it has infinite variations, and since I always enjoy borrowing combinations from other gardeners, I thought I’d share some I’ve discovered with you. I’ll probably do this as an ongoing series, since you can have successive plantings early, middle, and late in the season—if you’re really good, you can have all three, but I don’t think I’m there yet.

Successful successive combinations mean that one thing comes to fruition as the other one dies, and that they look good together. (Really successful combinations involve more than two plants, but more on that later in the season.)

The plants in question have to have compatible growing requirements, or you simply wind up with one live plant and one dead one. In the case of spring bulbs, this is easy: most spring bulbs come from Mediterranean countries. They need good drainage, part-shade to sun, and dry summers.

One thing you have to think about when you combine bulbs is when they bloom; another consideration is how big they are. Smaller bulbs are planted more shallowly than bigger ones, which means their roots are not competing in the same space. I am experimenting with planting similar-sized bulbs at different levels—mainly because I ran out of pots and had to do something—I’ll let you know if these experiments turn out well. I don’t know what this is going to mean for the long-term health of the bulb, but I do use deep pots, so they might have half a chance. I never use the conventional bulb pans for bulbs, although I do use them for other things—I think bulbs do best (and repeat best) if their roots get lots of growing room so they can get lots of nourishment to the bulbs.

I do the bulk of my planting in containers, but you can do the same combinations right in the ground. So long as the plants have the same soil, light, and water requirements, succession combinations will keep your garden lively for a longer season. And for us bulbomaniacs, it means we get to buy more bulbs.

Next post: Iris danfordiae unfolds.


Iris danfordiae is done, and the tulips rise up to flower

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • J. Denys Bourque October 17, 2014, 9:16 am

    First, let me say I like this blog.

    I too like to plant my bulbs in pots. Actually, I use bulb trays [I finally found some not too expensive ones on Internet – write me privately and I’ll inform on source. I can plant the trays at any depth. After they have bloomed and foliage has died off, I uplift the pots and separate the bulbs into size classes and in the fall replant them by arbitrary size classes. I haven’t yet planted bulbs for successional blooming; but I’ll definitely do so in 2015 for my spring and fall blooming crocus and colchicum.

  • Kartik October 24, 2015, 11:05 am

    Dear Britt,Its true that Kichler makes this product, but we must give the cerdit to the LED lamping manufacturer!Kichler is a manufacturer of Lighting fixtures, Their are several lighting manufacturers now usingLED technology i.e. W.A.C., Holtkotter, George Kovacs to name a few. It is nice that you can give high praise to the company that you work for.Regarding this article: Thank for you showing a cost savings in energy, from a company that appears to be on very corner.Regards,Darlene

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