Gardening with Allen: Now is the time to plant bulbs




Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at

I see flower bulbs in stores. When is the best time to plant bulbs in our area? Where is the best place to buy bulbs? What kinds of bulbs do you recommend?

We are at the beginning of bulb planting season right now. I have planted bulbs as late as the end of December, but it is better to plant earlier. Bulbs need some time to develop roots before the soil becomes frozen.

There are literally hundreds of places to buy bulbs including many good online and catalog sources. Avoid “bargain” bulbs, which are often disappointingly small. I prefer to purchase bulbs locally where I can see the size and quality of bulbs before I buy. Although you may find a larger selection of bulbs online, we have several full service nurseries and garden stores with large bulb selections.

I usually try some new kinds and varieties of bulbs every year. However, I get the most satisfaction from the good old standard varieties. Daffodils are definitely the most dependable and satisfying bulbs to plant. They bloom longer than any other spring bulb. They consistently live over from year to year. They multiply so they get more colorful each year.

Daffodils come in a wide range of types. I have recently planted a lot of miniature varieties where they can be viewed close-up. Daffodils are the best choice to plant in areas where they can naturalize. They will come up through ground cover and grass. One of the most attractive plantings of daffodils I have seen was a bed which was covered with ajuga. The purplish-bronze leaves were a striking combination with the yellow daffodils. Holes can be dug between ground cover plants to insert individual bulbs.

Tulips are the best second choice. They come in a wide range of colors and types. The easiest to grow are the single, tall May-flowering types. I prefer to plant a single color or two color mixture. A cluster of a dozen bulbs or more is needed for best effect.

Crocus is the best choice for extra early blooms. They need to be planted where they can be viewed close-up. Scatter them through a rock garden or perennial flower bed.

Grape hyacinths are widely used as a front border for other bulbs. Hyacinths are the queens of bulbs because of their wonderful fragrance. Plant them near an entry or a window where you can enjoy the fragrance.

I also plant bulbs in beds where I plant my annuals. I plant my annuals in the spring between the bulbs after they are have bloomed.

Fall is also a good time to plant hardy Asiatic and Oriental Lilies. They will be better established for full bloom next summer.

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at