How To Transplant Spring Bulbs

This past weekend my husband and I took on the daunting task of deconstructing three large, old planter boxes left by the previous homeowner (which included sledgehammering concrete to smithereens) and rebuilding a planter box with some of the materials where one … well, made sense.
The old boxes, which actually take up most of our modest front yard, were once full of roses, tulips, blueberries (I’m totally serious) daffodils, lillies, and decorative grasses.
Over the past couple of years of hard winters and dry summers, so far only the tulips seem to return, and being big on using what we have, we wanted to replant the tulips in our newly-built planter.
I’m glad I researched what it took to transplant tulips and other spring bulbs before I started digging, because it’s a pretty involved process. I thought I might share this valuable information for anyone else who may be looking to relocate some beautiful blooms in their own yards.

FirstSecond, when you go to dig up the bulbs, don’t shovel in right next to the plant. Go back around four to six inches (so you don’t accidentally stab the roots or the bulb itself and use the shovel as leverage to GENTLY lift up the dirt and bulb. You may have to do this from several angles. Wiggle the shovel to help with the gentleness of the undertaking.
Third, break away the dirt clumps around the bulb to separate it from the dirt. Inspect the bulb for mold, rot, or insect damage. Keep the good ones and add the gross ones to your compost pile.
Fourth, dig a new hole for the new location of the bulbs — make sure the new holes are three times the depth of the circumference of each bulb. Make sure to pace the holes three inches apart for small bulbs and six inches apart for larger bulbs. Place the round end of the bulb down, and the pointed tip of the bulb goes straight up. Carefully place dirt around the bulbs until they are half covered, and then shovel the rest on top of it. Pat down the dirt on the new bulb location to make it more secure. ( You can add bulb fertilizer in this step if you like, in the hole before you place the bulb. But that’s totally your call.)
Fifth, WATER THEM. OFTEN. When it starts to get cold, put some compost or other natural fertilizer (read, manure) over the new location, packing it down and watering it so the nutrients can seep down into the soil. Mulch it before winter — you can remove the mulch in the spring if that’s not your personal landscaping aesthetic.
Sixth, wait for your bulbs to bloom again in the spring. If they do, congrats, you did it right! If not … well, I’ll meet you at the garden shop and buy you some new ones.
I can’t wait for our tulips to bloom not only for the beautiful fresh flowers, but so I can soon after give them a new home and continue the larger project of re-landscaping our front yard. Keep your fingers crossed for me, okay? And if you have any suggestions on transplanting spring bulbs (or any gardening advice, since I have very little experience in this arena, but I’m SO willing to learn) leave them here for me in the comments!
Photo: Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi

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