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Narcissus bulb

Flower Bulbs – Size DOES Matter

Look at that sunshine!  Can you get better bulb planting weather than this?  I think not.  October is the perfect month for planting all kinds of things from trees, perennials, shrubs, garlic and, of course, fall flower bulbs.

Fall flower bulbs, also called spring flowering bulbs, consist of daffodils, tulips and crocus to name the more common types but there is a whole slew of wonderful bulbs to plant now that will give you a burst of life and colour in the drab late winter and early spring landscape so come down to Cultivate to check out the great selection.

Bulbs come in different sizes so it’s important to know that, most of the time, bigger is better in bulb world.  Take tulips for example.  Sometimes what seems like a smokin’ deal on a package of tulips may end up being a letdown come bloom time.

Quite often in the late spring you’ll find cheap bunches of cut tulips at the grocery stores.  The flowers are quite small, smaller than a kiwi.  Bulbs are measured by their circumference at the widest point and these were probably grown from 10cm size bulbs, generally known as landscape bulbs.  You need a lot of these 10cm bulbs to make a good show in the garden whereas larger bulbs, called a 12+up, can bring you apple or sometimes grapefruit sized flowers, depending on the variety.

An exception to the rule in tulips are the species tulips as they are naturally smaller flowers and plants in general so the bulbs never get much bigger than a cherry.  For most tulips, though, look for 12/+cm sizing on the package as they will give you larger flowers and more of them.

As for narcissus (daffodils), they are also measured by circumference but it can get a little confusing because the sizes can be referred to in centimeters, as a ‘double nose’ size (DN1, DN2, DN3) or ‘round size.’  Why they need all these different sizing terms is beyond me and even when I worked for a flower bulb wholesaler I had a tough time remembering which was which.

A larger sized daffodil bulb can be 16/+cm, DN1 or even Jumbo. The term ‘Double Nose’ means that the bulb is capable of producing two or more flowers with DN1 being the biggest, DN2 slightly smaller and DN3 smaller still. Rounds are the smallest and are single nosed bulbs, generally producing one flower.

Again, the miniature varieties of daffs will have naturally smaller sized bulbs but, for the big trumpet daffs like the popular King Alfred types, the bigger the bulb the better.  You’ll get larger flowers and more flower stems.

Another one to watch out for in terms of sizing is amaryllis for indoor forcing.  Again, bigger is better with larger flowers and more of them so go for the huge, (and in keeping with the fruit bowl analogy) coconut sized bulb.  Most of the amaryllis we carry at Cultivate are the larger sized bulbs and we get many customers come back in late winter to show us pictures of the wonderful display their amaryllis put on and how it kept putting up more flower stalks.  Again, exceptions to the rule are the specialty types.

So when you see really cheap packages of bulbs sold at grocery stores or box stores take a closer look at the size of the bulbs themselves.  Typically they’re smaller and the old adage “you get what you pay for” applies. Remember, bigger is better in bulbs.


Shirley Eppler

October 2013