Deciding on how many flower bulbs to plant is an important first step of planning a flower bulb garden. Making sure you have the right amount for the space you are planning in helps ensure you get the right look! Generally, having too many bulbs isn’t a big problem. You can always gift the extras to friends and neighbors. However, if you end up planting too few bulbs you may find yourself disappointed in spring. Hopefully with a bit more knowledge and a plan you will have a good idea of how many flower bulbs to plant this fall.
Flower Bulb Planting Techniques
Determining how you are going to plant the bulbs will determine how many flower bulbs you need. A traditional planting method is where one bulb is planted per hole using a bulb planter or bulb auger. Bouquet planting is a method that will create a flower bouquet effect when the bulbs come up. Mass planting in a large area or trench is a simple way to plant a large number of bulbs quickly.
Traditional Flower Bulb Planting
A traditional way of planting bulbs in the fall would be using a bulb planter and planting 1 bulb per planting hole. When planting 1 bulb per hole follow the spacing instruction on the package. When you know the spacing requirements based on planting technique one part of the equation is figured out.
The next step is to measure the planting area. Determine the square footage of the planting area by measuring the length and width of the planting area. To determine how many plants you need divide the square footage of the planting area by the spacing factor in the chart below.
|Recommended Spacing||Spacing Factor||25 Square Feet||50 Square Feet||75 Square Feet||100 Square Feet|
|4 Inches||0.11||227 Bulbs||454 Bulbs||682 Bulbs||909 Bulbs|
|6 Inches||0.25||100 Bulbs||200 Bulbs||300 Bulbs||400 Bulbs|
|8 Inches||0.44||57 Bulbs||114 Bulbs||170 Bulbs||227 Bulbs|
|10 Inches||0.7||36 Bulbs||72 Bulbs||107 Bulbs||143 Bulbs|
|12 Inches||1||12 Bulbs||50 Bulbs||75 Bulbs||100 Bulbs|
|15 Inches||1.56||16 Bulbs||32 Bulbs||48 Bulbs||64 Bulbs|
|18 Inches||2.25||11 Bulbs||22 Bulbs||33 Bulbs||44 Bulbs|
Bouquet Flower Bulb Planting
To plant flower bulbs in the bouquet method it’s pretty simple and my preferred way of planting. Dig one large planting hole to place 3, 5, or 7 bulbs in (depending on the type of bulb). Generally, with tulips the hole should be 12″ in diameter and 5 bulbs can be planted in it. They will be spaced closer than what the package says. Generally, with bouquet planting the bulbs will be 1-2″ apart.
How many bulbs to plant with this method? For tulips and daffodils that are bouquet planted, you can plan to plant 5 bulbs per square foot. If you know the square footage you would like to cover by the bouquet method you can multiply 5 bulbs times the square foot of the planting area. For a less technical approach, go to the garden and trace out the areas in which you want to add bouquet planting. Count the number of areas you have traced out and multiply times 5. That number will give you the number of bulbs needed for the bouquet planting areas.
The following fall-planted bulbs are recommended for bouquet planting:
- Tulips: 5 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
- Daffodils: 5 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
- Hyacinths: 5 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
- Crocus: 12 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
- Dwarf Dutch Iris: 12-15 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
- Small Allium: 8-12 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
- Lily bulbs: 3-5 bulbs per square foot bouquet planting area
Mass Flower Bulb Planting
When planting in a large planting bed that flower bulbs will fill completely this is often called mass planting. This method can also be used if planting flower bulbs along an entire border by digging a trench the length of the planting bed. Whether you are planting in a trench or planting in a large area, dig out the entire planting area first. Drop the bulbs into large sections of the planting area. After they are resting on the soil they can be spaced and straightened out.
When planting in mass the spacing will vary based on the effect you want to create. For a full look space the bulbs closer than the recommended spacing on the package. For example with tulips in mass planting the bulbs can be as close as 1″ from each other, as long as they aren’t touching. Note that by spacing the bulbs closer than the recommended spacing they may not return in the following years as robustly as if they are spaced according to the recommendation. Therefore, if having the bulbs return for several seasons is the main goal follow the planting spacing listed on the product package.
How Many Flower Bulbs Do I Need, Really?
Perhaps you are like me and math isn’t your favorite thing. After reading this information about planting techniques maybe you still don’t know how many flower bulbs you need? My simple answer is if it seems like a lot of flower bulbs, you probably need more. 50 flower bulbs may seem like a lot to plant. However, planting 50 tulip bulbs in a bouquet method will only cover 10 bouquets or 10 square feet.
Consider this too, that one tulip bulb will produce 1 flower. Therefore, if 50 tulip bulbs are planted they should generate 50 flowers. Finding spots throughout the yard to bouquet plant bulbs is an easy way to increase the number of bulbs blooming in spring. Planting in mass creates the largest color impact if you have the space and time to make it happen, the results are stunning. Lastly, if you just want a little color in spring, and only have the ability to plant a few bulbs in the garden, that is ok too!