Beverly Shaw
Master Gardener
Purdue University







Question and Answer

Q. I ordered a lot of spring-flowering daffodils and tulips and expect the shipment to arrive soon. Is there any trick to planting them? -- Cindy Cunningham, Terre Haute, Ind.

A. Start with a design first. I like working with large groups of plants, depending upon the size of your garden. For most residential sites, two dozen bulbs can make quite a show. If you plant three daffodils in one spot, three different ones in another, etc., you'll never get the impact of two dozen bulbs in one area. In an intimate garden, you might work with smaller numbers. In a formal front yard, you might plant four dozen of the same daffodil. Think in terms of "drifts" of color and avoid planting anything in a line.

Spring flowering bulbs bloom from February to May, and it's tricky to select two that will bloom together. You can find this information in the bulb catalogs and choosing plants that bloom together can create some interesting combinations.

I prefer to use a bulb drill, which is a large drill bit available at most garden centers or hardware stores. It allows me to tuck bulbs between perennials or plant roots without excavating huge areas of dirt. However, if the soil is poorly drained, the entire bed must be amended, by adding organic matter, such as peat moss, well-rotted manure or compost. Adequate fertility can be achieved by adding a low-analysis, balanced fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 or 6-10-4, at the rate of 2-3 pounds per 100 square feet of bed.

The size of the bulb and the species will dictate how deep to plant. In general, the depth to the bottom of the bulb should be about 2-3 times the size of the bulb, but check the planting instructions specific to each particular flower.

For more information, call the Purdue Extension office in your county, and ask for a copy of HO-86, "Flowering Bulbs," which is also available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-86.pdf.

Q. I grew some glorious cannas this year, but I know they aren't hardy. How do I handle them now that it's fall?

A. Cannas should be dug up after a hard frost. Cut the tops back to 4 inches, lift the roots with a spading fork and air dry them in a warm spot for one to two weeks. Canna roots do not require covering. They can be stored in shallow boxes and held at 45-50 F.

You'll be surprised at how the tuberous roots have increased during the growing season. In the spring, you can plant the clumps in their entirety or divide them into smaller pieces and enjoy many more cannas! Be sure there is a portion of the old stem base in each division that you make, since the new growth buds are in the old stem.


Contact: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,