This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

December 6, 2016

Why you should plant bulbs together with annual flowers

Today I wandered into Home Depot to buy a lightbulb or something, and of course I went through the plant area. It's December 6th, and I had imagined that there would be nothing in the gardening area but Christmas trees, and holiday decorations, so I was pleased to see that they still had a lot of stuff. I couldn't resist looking around.

So I bought a big bag of 25 daffodil bulbs (half price!) and four six-packs of annuals. And I will plant them in clusters in the same holes. There are two reasons for this: 1) the annuals will give me something to look at while I wait for the bulbs to start growing, and blooming (it will take several weeks for there to have much foliage, and they won't bloom until February) and 2) the annuals should be large enough by March, when the daffodil leaves start to fade, to do a neat trick I learned a long time ago. You're supposed to leave the daffodil leaves on until they've all turned brown, but they look awful, so you fold them together, bind with with a rubber band, and tuck them under the annual, which by then will be large enough. That way the daffodil leaves die back naturally, putting their strength into next year's bulbs - without looking all brown and ratty.

I've made the mistake of planting annuals way too early in the season here in Phoenix, but the weather is cooler now. Since it's December 6th, it's cold enough in my backyard that I'm actually wearing a shirt!

Daffodil bulbs and annuals in six-packs. I also add in a slow-release dry plant food, and polymer moisture crystals.

Tiny annual flowers planted on top of daffodil bulbs. Not much to show right now (December 6th), but they'll grow!

I'm doing a planting of three daffodil bulbs (King Alfreds - they'll be big!) and two annuals in each hole. After I've planted them, there really isn't much to show, but annuals grow fast, and this is their season. They will grow strongly until the heat of April kills them back. Of course, I always add in some dry slow-release fertilizer, some moisture crystals, and I water it all in with Miracle-Gro. I will water these areas every day for the next few weeks, until the growth looks pretty strong and hopefully the "Christmas rains" begin. Phoenix usually lets light rainfall in late December and January.

One thing that's great about planting bulbs and tiny annuals is that you can "squeeze them in" between other plants without having to dig a huge hole. The hole has to be a few inches deep, but it doesn't have to all that wide. I just dig down, put the bulbs in first, put the annuals alongside them, and push the dirt back. If it's a larger hole, where I have room, I'm doing more bulbs, adding potting soil, and putting more than just two annuals.

I plant the flowers within easy reach at the edge of my garden. That way I can water with ease, care for them without having to step into the garden, and besides flowers should be up front, where people can enjoy them! If you've planted your flowers way back in the garden, you've made a mistake. Give them the front row!

By the way, if you're like me, with an easily-strained lower back, it's good to take frequent breaks from the planting. Planting bulbs and tiny annuals isn't exactly heavy-duty gardening, but for someone like me, the stretching and leaning over can add up very quickly. I've done gardening as part of my therapy, both physical and mental, for many years now, and I'd like to be able to do it for a long, long time. So here's what I recommend - write a blog post like I'm doing right now. I'm taking a break between each planting, washing my hands, and coming in here to write this to you. In addition to being easier on the back, it's better for the plants as you won't start rushing and get sloppy. Each time I go out I'm feeling refreshed, and I'll do everything that the little plants need. This is that "$100-dollar hole for a $50 plant" that I'm a big believer in. Planting takes me a LONG time!

There. I'm done planting the bulbs. Actually I cheated a bit on the last hole and put in five bulbs. This area will have a LOT of daffodils, all scrunched together. They'll look great, kinda like the last fireworks. I just love doing this kind of stuff.

Daffodil bulbs in the hole. The annuals go on top.
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