Calculating the Number of Bulbs to Buy

Use this guide to decide how to buy and plant bulbs.

Related To:
Tulip Bulbs

Tulip Bulbs

Choose healthy tulip bulbs that are firm and dry. The papery wrapper should be intact. With bulbs, you get what you pay for—bigger is better.

Photo by: Steven Bemelman for iBulb.org

Steven Bemelman for iBulb.org

Choose healthy tulip bulbs that are firm and dry. The papery wrapper should be intact. With bulbs, you get what you pay for—bigger is better.

Tools and Materials

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Soil amendments such as compost
  • Sulfur or lime
  • Trowel
  • Hose

Step 1: Counting Your Bulbs

To simplify your bulb-buying calculations, we created this table of the most popular bulbs and their planting density in various-sized beds. Just measure the size of your bed and decide which type of bulb you want to plant, and the chart will determine how many bulbs you should buy. Of course, depending on both the effect you're trying to create and your budget, you can adjust the actual number of bulbs you plant. For example, for the most dramatic and showy effect, buy more bulbs than indicated and plant them closer together. If you're mixing other bulbs in the bed to provide contrast to the main flower variety, buy fewer bulbs and plant them farther apart.

Bed size in square feet
Bulb 10 25 50 100
Anemone, Crocus, Muscari, or Scilla 200 500 1,000 2,000
Daffodil (large) 75 205 420 1,100
Daffodil (small) 140 340 675 1,350
Tulip (large) 65 180 360 725
Tulip (species) 75 205 420 1,100

Step 2: Selecting Bulbs

When selecting bulbs, remember that the larger the bulb, the more flowers it will produce the first year after planting. For the most dramatic effect, plant only one variety. If you want to stagger and elongate the flowering period, plant early, mid-season, and late-season varieties of the same type of bulb, and group them by bloom season.

Step 3: Planting Bulbs

To create a bulb bed, till the bed and remove rocks, roots and weeds (and sod if the area is still lawn), then amend the soil with a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost. Based on a soil test, adjust the pH to between 6 and 7. Spread a granular bulb fertilizer (9-9-6) on the planting area.

Step 4: Space the Bulbs

Space the bulbs evenly apart in the bed, but avoid arranging them like soldiers in a straight line; staggered spacing will give the bulbs a more natural look when they bloom. Follow the planting depths suggested for the various bulbs. A good rule of thumb: plant in a hole three times as deep as the bulb's greatest diameter. Water the bed well.

Step 5: After the Show Is Over

After flowering is finished, let the foliage yellow naturally before cutting it back, and plant annual flowers such as zinnias or marigolds in the bed to provide summer color. Be careful digging in the bed so as not to disturb the bulbs. (Note: Many gardeners plant tulips for one springtime show only because bloom in succeeding years is rarely as dramatic. Therefore, especially in the case of tulips that you don't expect to rebloom, pull faded leaves immediately after flowers fade.)

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