plant a 3 layer spring bulb garden to save space

Asked June 8, 2020, 2:49 PM EDT

We want to plant the bulbs in this order. First, daffodils (mid-late spring bloom), mini-daffodils (early-mid spring bloom), last, crocus (late winter early spring) with grape hyacinths (mid-late spring) as the final layer. Following the planting instructions there would only be one inch of soil between each layer. Our concern is that the foliage of the regular daffodils would obscure the mini-daffodils. Do you think this plan would work? We have never tried a layered bulb garden. Many thanks for your help! Pat

St. Mary's County Maryland

3 Responses

Hello Pat,

Layered bulb plantings have often been recommended by bulb wholesalers but does not have any scientific study that we are aware of, such as evaluating any possible long-term detriment to the plants from competition for space and resources. Therefore, we cannot say how likely this will be to fail or succeed. It is important for the health and vigor of the bulb to be able to nourish itself fully before the foliage dies off fully, so any planting that allows for this foliage to remain on the plant until it is completely brown and pulls off easily is best. Bulbs are often paired with other garden perennials that emerge later in spring for this reason - to hide the ripening foliage as it yellows and browns. In a group, taller bulbs leaning on/over smaller bulbs may be an aesthetic problem, but probably won't impact their health unless they were shading them significantly. (Unlikely, given the amount of sun bulbs prefer to grow in and the relative slenderness of most bulb foliage.)

Although the recommended planting depth for each type of bulb has little wiggle-room for adjustment (a few bulbs can tolerate deeper siting, which can cause them to bloom later or shorter), you can give each bulb a bit more room laterally (width-wise). This should lessen competition as well as give bulbs room to offset while not blocking each other as much. What exact distance this would be, we cannot say. You may have to experiment and, if it appears too crowded, move the bulbs after they go dormant (or in early autumn). Alternately, you could contact the bulb supplier themselves (if you're using a catalog or pre-packaged bulbs that may have contact info printed on it) to ask about their experiences with layering these particular bulbs.

Miri

Hello Miri, thank you so much for your helpful and prompt response. Pat