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How to Mulch Bulbs

How to Mulch Bulbs

So, you’ve planted your bulbs (or are planning to plant your bulbs) and then you start to wonder, “Hmmm, should I mulch them after planting?” Bulbs seem to be that mysterious type of plant that make perfectly competent gardeners start to question their knowledge or abilities.

After all, planting them is a little different. Pruning them is a little different. Watering them is sometimes different. Sometimes they need to be dug up and chilled—you don’t have to do that with every other plant, right? So maybe bulbs are different when it comes to mulching, too.

“Nope!” says Jim Threadgill, owner of of Easy to Grow Bulbs. “You should mulch them just like you do other types of plants. Don’t overthink it, just get the thickness down right and you’re good to go.”

So here’s what you need to know about mulching bulbs:

  1. Mulch them right after planting.
  2. Use whatever mulch is regional to you and easily accessible (with the possible exception of bark chips, which tend to float away in a rainstorm).
  3. Add a 2–4” layer of your preferred mulch.
  4. Water in.
  5. That’s it!

FAQs of Mulching Bulbs

Q: What’s the point of mulching bulbs, anyway? Convince me.

A: Mulching bulbs, just as with mulching other types of plants in your landscape bed, keeps the soil moist and prevents weeds from germinating. It can also prevent animals from digging up your bulbs (although if you have a really challenging problem with rodents, you may need to take further measures to protect your bulbs).

Q: Won’t the mulch smother my bulbs? Will they be able to grow through the mulch layer?

A: No, it won’t, and yes, they will. Think about it—bulbs grow through several inches of soil to get to the top. Do you think a few inches of loose mulch will stop them then? No way!

Q: So if a little mulch is good, then a lot of mulch would be better, right?

A: Actually, no. If you add 6” of mulch over your newly planted bulbs, you’re over-mulching and that can reduce the number of blooms each bulb can produce. So 2–4” is plenty, thank you.

Q: What if I don’t mulch at all? What will happen?

A: While over-mulching can reduce the number of blooms a bulb produces, not mulching at all can result in zero blooms. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Part of that could be because you’re making it easy for animals to make off with them, which is no bueno.

Q: And what if I want to plant bulbs in a bed that is already mulched?

A: Just move the mulch aside, plant, and replace the mulch!

Q: Hey! I mulched over my newly planted bulbs and still got weeds! What gives?

A: Here’s the thing about mulch: While it does a great job at keeping weeds from germinating in your landscape bed, it’s not going to keep weeds from sprouting that were already there from the beginning. So before you do any planting and mulching in your beds, be sure to remove any and all existing weeds. Start with a clean slate and you’ll have a lot less trouble down the road.

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  • Katie Elzer-Peters