General Information: It’s botanical name is Tulipa! But many of us refer to them as tulips! You can buy tulip bulbs in virtually all colors, including a purple so deep that it looks black. And by planting a selection of varieties of this perennial, you can enjoy their beauty from early spring through early summer. Tulips do best in areas with dry summers and cold winters. The brightly colored, upright flowers may be single or double, and vary in shape from simple cups, bowls, and goblets to more complex forms. They are excellent in beds and borders; many types are good for forcing into bloom indoors, and most are excellent for cut flowers.
- · Nature never intended for bulbs to loll about above ground, so don’t delay planting the bulbs after purchase.
- · Plant tulip bulbs in the fall, 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected and when soils are below 60 degrees F. (See our frost charts.) This timing ranges from early autumn (Zone 4) to late autumn (warmer zones).
- · Tulips prefer a site with full or afternoon sun. In Zones 7 and 8, choose a shady site or one with morning sun only.
- · All tulips dislike excessive moisture. Ideally, the soil is well-drained, neutral to slightly acidic, fertile, and dry or sandy.
- · Rainy summers, irrigation systems, and wet soil are death to tulips. Never deliberately water a bulb bed. Wet soil leads to fungus and disease and can rot bulbs. Add shredded pine bark, sand, or anything to foster swift drainage.
- · You’ll want to space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart, so choose an appropriate plot size.
- · To deter mice and miles—if they have been a problem—put holly or any other thorny leaves in the planting holes. Some gardeners use kitty litter or crushed gravel.
- · If ravenous rodents are a real problem, you may need to take stronger measures, such as planting bulbs in a cage of wire.
- · Plant bulbs deep—at least 8 inches, measuring from the base of the bulb. And that means digging even deeper, to loosen the soil and allow for drainage, or creating raised beds. Remember, the bigger the bulb, the deeper the hole it needs.
- · Set the bulb in the hole with the pointy end up. Cover with soil and press soil firmly.
- · Water bulbs right after planting. Although they can’t bear wet feet, bulbs need water to trigger growth.
- · If you’re planning to raise perennial tulips, feed them when you plant them in the fall. Bulbs are their own complete storage system and contain all of the nutrients they need for one year. Use organic material, compost, or a balanced time-release bulb food.
- · Water tulips during dry spells in the fall; otherwise, do not water.
- · Compost annually.
- · Deadhead tulips after flowering.
- · Allow the foliage to yellow for about 6 weeks after flowering before removing it.
- · The bulbs of Species tulips may be left in the ground for several years; others may be lifted annually, once the leaves have died down, and ripened in a warm, dry place.
- · Replant the largest bulbs; smaller bulbs may be grown in containers in a bulb frame, in mix of equal parts loam, leaf mold, and sharp sand. When in growth, water moderately, applying a balanced liquid fertilizer weekly for 3 or 4 weeks after flowering; keep dry in summer, and repot annually.
General Information: Who doesn’t love lilacs? The ideal lilac shrub has about 10 canes and produces flowers at eye-level—all the better to enjoy that sweet, haunting fragrance. Lilacs do come in seven colors but most are familiar with the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which blooms in the northern states for 2 weeks in late May. However, there are early-, mid-, and late-season lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks.
Lilacs are hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance. They can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The fragrant flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies.
- · Grow lilacs in fertile, humus-rich, well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (at a pH near 7.0). If your soil is in poor condition, add compost to enrich.
- · Select a site where your lilac will get full sun—at least 6 hours. If lilacs don’t get enough sun, they will not bloom well.
- · Make sure the site drains well. Lilacs don’t like wet feet and will not bloom with too much water.
- · Plant in either spring or fall, although the latter is preferred.
- · If you’re lucky, a friend will give you a sucker, or offshoot, of the root system of one of his plants. Your sucker will look pathetic at first but just dig a hole, backfill it with soil, and stick the sucker in. Then water and wait. In 4 or 5 years, you’ll be rewarded with huge, fragrant blossoms.
- · Transplanting lilacs from a nursery is also easy. If it’s container-grown, spread out the roots as you settle the plant into the ground; if it’s balled or burlapped, gentle remove it and any rope before planting. Set the plant 2 or 3 inches deeper than it grew in the nursery, and work topsoil in around the roots. Water in. Then fill in the hole with more topsoil.
- · Space multiple lilac shrubs 5 to 15 feet apart, depending on the variety.
- · Each spring, apply a layer of compost under the plant, followed by mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.
- · Water during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
- · Lilacs won’t bloom if they’re overfertilized. They can handle a handful of 10-10-10 in late winter, but no more.
- · After your lilac bush has finished blooming, spread some lime and well-rotted manure around the base. Trim the bush to shape it, and remove suckers at the same time.
- · Lilacs bloom on old wood, so it’s critical to prune in the spring right after they bloom. If you prune later in the summer, you may be removing the wood. Here’s a tip: If your lilac flower clusters are getting smaller, time to prune!
- · Every year after bloom, remove any dead wood. Prune out the oldest canes (down to the ground). Remove the small suckers. Cut back weak branches to a strong shoot. Cut back tall canes to eye height.
- · If your lilac is old and in really bad shape, remove one-third of the oldest canes (down to the ground) in year one, half of the remaining old wood in year two, and the rest of the old wood in year three. Another option for old lilacs is to chop the whole thing back to about 6 or 8 inches high. It sounds drastic, but lilacs are very hardy. The downside to this option is that it takes a few years to grow back. The upside is less work and more reward, as the lilac will grow back bursting with blooms.
- · It must be recognized that severe pruning results in the loss of blooms for one to three years. For these reasons, a wise pruning program aims to avoid severe and drastic cuts by giving the bushes annual attention.
Pansies are hardy annuals whose flowers have “faces.” These plants offer colorful flowers for any season in your garden. They have one of the widest ranges of colors and are good for containers, borders, and ground covers.
- · You can start pansy seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before you plan on transplanting them.
- · Plant seeds in late winter for early spring and summer flowering, or plant seeds in the summer for winter flowering.
- · Plant in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. Pansies like sun and cooler temperatures.
- · Space the plants about 7 to 12 inches apart. They will spread about 9 to 12 inches and grow to be about 6 to 9 inches tall.
- · Remember to water your pansies regularly. One of the most common reasons pansies fail is because they are not watered enough, so if your pansies are not doing well, try watering them more.
- · You can use a general, all-purpose fertilizer around your pansies to help them grow.
- · Remove faded/dead flowers to prolong blooming and encourage more flowers to grow.