Question Regarding Fall Bulbs

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Good Afternoon!

I planted my first flower garden this spring and I've gotten mixed results. I have planted:

Pink Flamingo Plant (haven't seen it.... I don't think)
Magic Butterfly Violet (They have 'magically' appeared)
Astilbe (I see 3 of the 5 plants)
Poker Primrose (I don't think I've seen that...then again.. I may have thought it was a weed & pulled it)
Ajuga Blue Carpet (I don't think I've seen that either)
Virginia Blue bells (I have two of those!)
Lady Fern (I have one of 3)
Widows Tears (I think I have those too!)
Perennial Lilies (I have 10 of those!)
Lily of The Valley (I had those.... 'somebody' ate them....)

I'm wondering if I should be looking at planting fall bulbs in some of the bare spots where I didn't have much luck? Or, should I wait it out until next spring and see if more of my flowers come up?


Piedmont, SC(Zone 7b)

If you want it to look good next spring plant more bulbs. You can always move some bulbs next fall. good luck

Tampa, FL(Zone 10a)


If the plants didn't come up this year they won't be there next year.

If you are planning on planting bulbs that are perennial (like alliums or crocus) I would plant them in between what is growing now and the bare spots. I would suggest that you replant the bare spots in spring.

If you are planning on planting bulbs that don't multiply (like tulips) then you can plant them in the bare spots to fill in for a full look to your flower beds.

You might want to consider a different supplier for you perennials too. Even the most novice planter should have had better luck. Sounds like the plants you got were low quality.

Good luck with the next set of plants.

This message was edited Jun 25, 2007 10:08 PM

Thumbnail by DaleTheGardener
Thomson, GA

I, too, am a fairly novice gardener. I knew that I wanted tons of flowers in my yard and also for cut flowers. I have not had as much success with spring bulbs except for daffodils, (very hot here) but great success with lilies and daylilies. Out of the 60+ daylilies I have planted, I have only lost 1. Asiatic and Oriental lilies are effortless for the return they give, and you can plant early, midseason and late blooming varieties to keep them coming. Last year I had one dinnerplate dahlia that blew me away, and now I have 30 different types, hoping half of them do as well as that one last year. I have 1 awesome hardy hibiscus, transplanted from a root two years ago - it has over 80 buds on it and started blooming this am. Not sure what zone you are in, but some of them are hardy to zone 5 I think.

Squirrels ate the first 60 Caladiums I planted. After a dose of cayenne pepper, the next 24 came up just fine!

Seems like anything that comes from a tuber, bulb, corm or root I have good fortune with; seeds are a different matter. The only success I have had is with moon flower and Cosmos. I need a greenhouse.

Good luck and keep it up.

Thumbnail by guardians
Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Dave thanks so much for the information, I'll take all that I can get!

I can't blame my lack of success on the supplier as much as I can on myself. I didn't plant things I was familiar with and I think many of them may have gotten pulled when I 'weeded'. Long story short, due to illness I couldn't get to the garden for awhile this spring to weed and by the time I did I couldn't tell what was what - and apparently I'm not good at guessing. My poor flowers....I could just cry... BUT, the important thing is that I've learned alot this year and I'm determined to do better next year.

I may buy some bulbs I'm familiar with for fall like hyacinths but if I'm not familiar with it, I'm buying the actual plant...and taking pictures to keep.... so I don't 'weed out' my flowers.

I think at this point I may take pictures of what I have left in my garden and see if the nice people here on DG can tell me what I'm looking at. Other than the unique looking plants, like astilbe, fern and lilies, I'm not sure what I've got left.

Thanks again!


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Guardians it sounds like you have a very large and beautiful garden! What is the flower that you pictured in your post? It's beautiful!

I do love the lilies that are coming up, however I have to admit I don't like all the space between them and wish it looked fuller. But I did space them according to package directions. (I'm going to surround them all with cayenne pepper when I get home though... thanks for the tip! They've eaten a large majority of the leaves.)

I'll have to look into hibiscus and see if they'll work for me. I'm in zone 5 (5a I think) and my garden is a mixture of complete shade and partial sun.

Thanks for the advice and the suggestions I'll take all I can get!


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks Smokey! Here's a question for you. If I plant bulbs in the fall is there anyway to mark them so I'll know where they are in spring? Anything that will make it through snow and wind and rain and everything else we get here in Wisconsin?



The Monadnock Region, NH(Zone 5a)


For markers last year we simply used popsicle sticks marked with a Sharpie and stuck into the ground. I know that there are much better markers out there, but we are just starting out and used what we had on hand. Nothing like having a ton of those popsicle sticks hanging around for the kids' school projects!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Christy, you did good considering you had been unwell, maybe part of the problem with the likes of Lily-Of-The-Valley was that you missed the flowering, they come up in spring and then die down again about May, so you may find them next spring, these and your Astilbe like a dampish soil so give them a mulch, as regards the other things you have and find that are either in the wrong place or like your lily's too far appart, then once the greenery dies down and you should allow it to do that natural, then you can always dig up the bulbs with a good bit of soil around them, then replant them closer together or somewhere else, give them a plant feed to help build the bulbs up for flowering next year, dont add extra feed as too much is as bad as none at all, as for marking where your plants are, I personaly use garden canes placed where my bulbs are so that as I tidy up the borders and beds in autumn/spring, I dont dig them up or damage the bulbs as I fork or dig, also you can buy (cheep) white or coloured markers, use a pen that wont wash off, and add the name of the bulb, the colour, the date planted, how tall and which type, ie, asiatic, blue bell, astilbe etc, then as you add to the border or bed, you know whatever you are planting will match colour/hight and flowering time, also as you said, take some pictures as your bed starts to flower so you will eventually remember where things are. Spring bulbs, these are great for giving you early colours, I always try to plant these in odd numbers as in 3-5-7, that way you get a nicer show, they help support each other and dont all stand in a line like little tin soldiers, most bulbs should be planted to 2 1/2 times the size of the bulbs, ie, if you plant a tulip bulb and the bulb is say an inch tall from root to top then you plant it into the earth two half inch deep in the soil, same with them all, however, if you get really bad frost in your zone, it wont harm them to go slightly deeper as this will offer them some frost protection, as you plant, add some plant food to the hole, if you want to lift the bulbs each year after flowering, then put them into bulb baskets with some compost and sink the set of bulbs and the basket into the hole, so as you dig them up, the basket and all the bulbs are lifted together, it saves searching for the bulbs, most bulbs will multiply over time except the tulips, these ones dont, not as well as the others anyway, you can lift and save the bulbs for the next year, dry them of in a cool dry place and remove the greenery once it had dried, store the bulbs in the same conditions with labels and colours, hope this helps you to get started for your next seasons gardening, dont get disheartened if all the plants dont do well, gardening is a learning prosses and you get to know your soil and plants needs as you go along, but as Dave said, always try plant the best quality plant you can get, if they look sad, wilted, brown etc right at the start, dont take them, they will maybe bring deseases to your garden.good luck, WeeNel.

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

WeeNel - Thanks SO much for all of the information! I'm taking notes! You are definitely right - this is a learning experience. My neighbor has a beautiful garden and when she finds me looking at her flowers with envy she always reminds me that it took her years to establish her gardens.

I believe I've seen those white markers in the store.... I'm going to run out and get some of those.

That's an excellent way to know how deep to plant bulbs, a simple rule to remember.

The packaging with my lilies said to plant them six inches apart , so I grabbed a ruler and planted them exactly 6 inches apart. Now that they've come up I'm not thrilled with the space between them. Can I plant them closer together? Or can I plant things in betwen them? I wasn't sure how that worked.

Thanks again for the information, not only hve I been learning from my new garden, but I'm learning more from everyone here!


Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Chrissy, if you have planted the bulbs about 6 inch apart and they are happy, I personaly would leave them as they will bulk up and send up more shoots each year, the new shoots wont flower for a couple of years as they will be tiny little bulbs that the parent one produces as it matures, in about 4 years time these will be flowering also, and you will have a nice thick patch of lily's all looking the same colour, this is what I meant about patience, however, if you really cant wait for the big full looking display, then you can dig them up, with a good bit of earth, and plant them closer together, but in a few years, you may need to seperate them to give them more room, planting distances on the labels and packages are really only for a guidline and if they were planted 4/5 inches appart, you would not have harmed the bulbs or the flowers, how I grow my lily's is to plant things around them or fill a space in between other plants with the lily's as they do have such a short flowering time, then when the lily flowers fade and die, then something else is in place to fill the gap left by the lily's, depending on where in your border/bed you have them, you could plant maybe some lavender in front of your bulbs space,which will fill a good area after a year, but if that is not tall enough then look out for some other kind of perennial plants that will do the same job, I always try to make things flower in contrasting colours, like pink lily's and maybe pink day lily's or purple lavender to show up all the contrasting colours, even Roses, I cant do them as I have visiting deer that eat Roses as a snack, you will soon get to know what you like yourself, even looking at magazines or gardening books from the librery will give you the confidence to try thing out, if you aint happy one year, you can always change things about in the autumn ready for the next, so be bold, Perennials are tougher than you think so long as you feed, water and treat them properly, they will reward you each year, Good Luck, WeeNel.

Bellevue, NE(Zone 4b)

A note about a lot of spring bulbs - squirrels like to dig them up and eat them. They don't like daffodils, though, so if you have squirrels around it is best to mix the other early spring bulbs, like tulips, with the daffodil bulbs and they tend to leave them alone.

The Monadnock Region, NH(Zone 5a)

What great advice!

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

You all are just a wealth of information! That's great advice about planting daffodil bulbs with the others, that's not a bad idea as I do have squirrels here. I read some where here on Dave's that someone put chicken wire down after planting her bulbs and then add the dirt. The plants go through the chicken wire but the squirrels leave them alone! I thought that was SO inventive!

WeeNel we have deer here but they don't come into my neighborhood here. There are too many wooded areas and farm field a mile or so from here that they feas from. I am currently battling the bunnies! It wasn't so bad when they were just eating the leaves of my lilies, but now they've chewed them in half and eaten my unopened flowers! AND it turns out that they've been eating my violets as well. Grrrrrrrrrr..... I sprinkled the lilies and violets with cayenne and they seem to be working so far.... they haven't done any more damage at least. Only time will tell I suppose!

You guys are great! Thanks so much for the wonderful advice!


Bellevue, NE(Zone 4b)

Let me know what ends up working with the bunnies and voilets. I lost mine to bunnies and tried the cayenne pepper - it didn't work for me, but I lived by woods then. I love violets and would like to try them again sometime if I knew it wasn't throwing the money away.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Unfortunately, I live by the sea, but am also slap bang in the midst of trees, so wind, salt air burn and wandering animals are an everyday occurence for me, my husband say's me in the garden is like watching Yoggy bear and Mr Ranger to see who's going to outwit the other, you just learn to live with it and the fun part is trying to out do the deer, rabbits, squirlls etc, animals that dig for there supper, get the chicken wire treatment the top feeders get lots of surprises awaiting them, some you win, some you dont, but you get to know what works for a while, the thing is you have to keep changing tactics as they get used to seeing old CD's flap in the breeze and after a while ignore them, they get used to things like toys that whirl around like windmills on stick, and they also get to know your garden habits and times, so as I say, you just learn to watch for them in spring/autumn etc, you will soon devise your own methods, but if you sit back and do nothing, then you really will get disheartened and gardening will stop being a pleasure, more a chore, so dont give up, I dont go for all the fancy expensive things that you can trap, chase or kill, they want to feed, you just learn them to feed elsewhere, good luck, dont give up after getting a good start, get a dog/cat etc before it gets to the defeated stage, have fun, use your own imagination, learn about the animals feeding habits and get one step ahead of them, happy gardening, Weenel.

Barnesville, GA(Zone 8a)

Hi, Christy

Boy, your email brings back memories! In the first yard I ever had, after years of houseplant and porch gardening in condos, I couldn't wait to plant lots of flowers. Then I couldn't find them the next year among the weeds! One of the first things to learn (and it takes a few gardening cycles) is what your plant leaves look like when they sprout in the spring vs. weeds. And you have to get out there right away in the spring to weed around the plant shoots so they don't get strangled. I call it "spring triage" like in an emergency room; I have a chronic illness and stamina problems, so I weed just a little every day, just those areas where the new spring sprouts are in an emergency situation and will get killed if I don't hop on it. Also I use markers, because even though I now basically know where things are, I like to occasionally make my husband help me, and he needs the markers.

Yes, planting daffodils through other bulbs helps immensely. Also, I have found that, for little bulbs like crocus and ipheion, mashing a few small moth balls into the soil around them seems to deter most critters (and you don't really smell them yourself after a day or so, but the wildlife who poke around and dig certainly don't like them).

Happy gardening to all.

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Wanderinggarden the pepper still seems to be working for me. I ran out of cayenne and in a panic I used crushed red pepper and that seems to be doing just as well. Of course, my flowers are 'speckled' with red and yellow flakes, but at least they're not chewed up! I was looking at the ingredients of the 'bunny-be-gone' type sprays and many of them contain garlic....I may try that too. When I told my mom about the pepper working she laughed because her bunnies just ate all of her jalepeno peppers that she had growing in the garden. Hahaha! Mom & Dad live about 3 hours north of us... must be a different breed of bunny! LOL If I find anything else that seems to deter the little fur balls I'll let you know!


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

WeeNel I promise not to give up! My neighbor told me that this is the first time in 35 years she's ever had a problem with bunnies. (I was happy to know that I didn't have the only bunny buffett in town! lol)

You have some excellent ideas... I have a bunch of old CD's laying around... and some fishing line.... I see a CD windchime/mobile in my future....I knew all of those free AOL CD's would come in handy some day!

I sure do appreciate you passing on your knowledge, I've learned so much here!


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

kator that's excellent advice. I have bad knees and a bad back so a long stretch of gardening can be uncomfortable and I find myself doing it in small batches too. I'm definitely going to mark everything. I pulled the last of the weeds and my garden is looking very bare. But I have plants that are alive and well, (and some that are kind of alive and 'hanging on') so it wasn't a total loss!

Thanks so much! It sure feels good to know that I'm not the only who's had these same issues.


central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Christy, you're original list looked like it contained a lot of plants for the shade. Is that the area you're planting? Make sure of the sun/shade requirements on the plants and bulbs your buying.
Chicken wire over the bulbs keeps the critters from eating them.

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