University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 23, 2014
Source: Beth Berlin, Extension Educator - Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns & Benton Counties
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (04/23/14) — Spring weather in Minnesota can be unpredictable, so when the first spring flowers bloom it may surprise us. Spring blooming bulbs and spring ephemerals add an attractive beautiful splash of color to an otherwise drab, brown, early spring landscape. Common spring flowering bulbs include crocus, Galanthus (snowdrops), hyacinth, Muscari (grape hyacinth), Allium giganteum, daffodils, and tulips. Our native woodlands can be delicately blanketed with native spring ephemerals like the trout lily, Virginia bluebells, and false rue anemone. Consider adding spring flowering bulbs or spring ephemerals to your landscape because of their beauty and ease of care and maintenance.
Spring blooming bulbs bring an array of colors, heights, textures, and different appearances. From the delicate look of a crocus, to the more course texture of tulip foliage, there are a lot of options to create your own unique look. Spring blooming bulbs typically are broken into early, mid, and late season; so don’t be discouraged if yours haven’t come up yet.
Spring ephemerals are early blooming, short-lived woodland plants. Ephemeral means “lasting a brief or very short time”. Spring ephemerals take advantage of the available spring moisture and sunlight reaching the forest floor before the tree canopy develops. These remarkable plants emerge, grow, flower, and produce seed in a period of only six to eight weeks. Many will then enter dormancy and only reappear the following spring. Not only are the spring ephemerals beautiful to look at, but they provide a wonderful nectar source to many insects early in the spring.
Caring for spring flowering bulbs is fairly easy. To encourage growth, carefully remove any mulch layer you have covering the plant as the soil temperatures begin to warm. However if spring weather predicts a hard frost re-covering the plant is necessary. Also, if spring rain showers are infrequent, additional watering may be necessary throughout the flowering period to provide adequate moisture and nutrients to the roots. However, be aware of the soil moisture, as soggy conditions will encourage bulb rot. As the flowers begin to fade, simply clip them off with a garden scissors to discourage energy from going to the seeds. Allow the foliage to continue to stay healthy as long as possible. Through photosynthesis, the foliage is creating energy necessary for the bulb to replenish and hopefully rebloom next year. Once the foliage has withered, simply clip it down, leaving the bulb stored away underground for next year.
Spring blooming flower bulbs can be left in the ground year after year because they are considered a hardy bulb and should be treated like a perennial. If areas appear to become too crowded over the years, or the plants are no longer blooming because they are too crowded, simply divide them after the foliage has withered and relocate to another place. However, if the plants do not rebloom they may need to be replaced or relocated because they may be in an area where they are too shaded.
A few common problems associated with bulbs are that they are planted too shallow, are not hardy for the region, or were planted too late in the season. In some situations where excessive fertilizer was used, the bulbs were bruised or cut, or the soil conditions are too wet, the bulb may rot. Other issues may be caused by animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, and mice.
So think spring by enjoying the beauty of spring flowering bulbs or spring ephemerals, but be sure to care for them correctly. For more information visit www.extension.umn.edu/garden and search “spring bulbs”.