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Growing bulbs in Calgary

Growing bulbs in Calgary

Growing bulbs in Calgary

It’s time to think about fall bulbs and planning for your spring display! There is quite a selection these days in comparison to what Grandma used to plant. Tulips with fringes, stripes, ruffle, from white to pink to nearly black! There are tall, short, low growing ones even, with multi coloured open faces! The term bulb doesn’t only refer to tulips and daffodils but includes many plant species such as lilies, corms, tubers, tuberous roots, and rhizomes. Bulbs are generally very reliable, low maintenance and can start blooming while the snow is still melting!

If you have never planted them before here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

*the smaller the bulb the more required for a good showing

*large and medium bulbs are generally a better buy

*examine bulbs carefully and choose ones that are plump and firm, and show no signs of injury

When planting…
*The bulb should be covered with twice its own depth of soil. (If planted too deep you will have foliage but weak or absent blooms) The exception being irises which only need to be planted just below the soils surface.

*Most bulbs need to be planted with the pointy end up but if there is no pointy end but there is eyes and buds, plant with these facing up

*When planting consider amending your soil with organic matter, a bulb booster fertilizer (9-8-6), or bone meal.



Plant crocus, scillas and narcissi from Sept. to mid-October, tulips from mid October to mid November but if you miss these windows you can still plant until the ground is frozen — they will just flower later. Consider location when planting…As early flowering bulbs have finished their cycle before most of the garden gets going, consider planting around your larger perennials where the fallen bulb foliage will be masked after blooming. Never cut back the foliage after blooming even if it is yellow as leaving them will strengthen the bulb for next year.

Tulips   Tulips and narcissi for example grow to be 12-24 inches so can be placed further back in the garden which will in turn help the withering foliage to be masked by perennials.

Not all bulbs are spring flowering, so be sure to check the package and make sure you are getting the timing that you want as some bloom through out the summer.




Crocuses are shallow rooted so are great planted in drifts around evergreen shrubs as they won’t compete with their root system.




Allium My personal favourite are alliums. The allium giganteum ‘Globemaster’ has a purple puff ball  bloom which grows up to ten inches across on 36 inch tall stems. The best part is even after the  bloom fades, the flower structure remains for a brilliant fall and winter display.





With the availability of such a variety in colours, textures and sizes and their low maintenance requirements, bulbs deserve consideration for your garden. If you don’t like them where you planted them this year they are quite happy to be lifted and moved elsewhere for next summer!

Author: Colleen Tanner


Common Name Latin Name USDA Hardiness Zone Preferred Soil Type Spacing Planting Depth Blooming Season Height of Plant Suggestions
Bluebell Hyacinthoides 4-9 Well drained/fertile 4″ 3-4″ Spring 8-20″ Excellent for borders and rock gardens
Christmas Rose Helleborus 4-8 Neutral-Alkaline 18 1-2″ Spring 12″ Requires shelter from strong winds
Crocus Crocus 3-8 Well drained/fertile/moist 4″ 3″ Early spring 5″ Naturalises well in grass
Daffodil Narcissus 3-10 Well drained/fertile/moist 6″ 6″ Early spring 14-24″ Plant under shrubs or in a border
Fritillary Fritillaria 3-9 Well drained/sandy 3″ 3″ Mid-spring 6-30″ Good for rock gardens and borders
Glory of the Snow Chionodoxa 3-9 Well drained/moist 3″ 3″ Spring 4-10″ Self-sows easily
Grape Hyacinth Muscari 4-10 Well drained/moist/fertile 3-4″ 2-3″ Late winter to spring 6-12″ Self-sows, use for borders
Bearded Iris Iris 3-9 Well drained 4″ 4″ Early spring to early summer 3-48″ Good for cut flowers and naturalising
Siberian Iris Iris 4-9 Well drained 4″ 4″ Early spring to midsummer 18-48″ Good for cut flowers
Ornamental Onion Allium 3-10 Well drained/moist/fertile 12″ 3-4″ Late spring to early summer 6-60″ Good for cut flowers, tends to be pest-free
Snowdrop Galanthus 3-9 Well drained/moist/fertile 3″ 3″ Spring 6-12″ Best when clustered in a moist area
Snowflake Leucojum 5-9 Well drained/moist/sandy 4″ 4″ Spring 6-18″ Naturalises well
Spring Starflower Ipheion 6-9 Well drained loam 3-6″ 3″ Spring 4-6″ Naturalises easily, fragrant
Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum 5-10 Well drained/moist 2-5″ 4″ Spring to Summer 6-24″ In our zone you must plant in spring and lift in fall
Striped Squill Puschkinia scilloides 3-9 Well drained 6″ 3″ Spring 4-6″ Naturalises Easily, good for edging
Tulip Tulipa 4-8 Well drained/fertile 3-6″ 4-6″ Early to late spring 8-30″ Borders, rock gardens, naturalising
Winter aconite Eranthis 4-9 Well drained/moist/fertile 3″ 2-3″ Late Winter to Spring 2-4″ Self-Sows and Naturalises Easily

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