Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Spring Planted Bulbs

Close up of yellow freesia flowers

Hello Fellow Readers, Last evening, I enjoyed an outing to Papermill Theatre in Millburn, NJ, which allowed me to brain pick my design colleague and friend Marty about her favorite spring bulbs to plant in the spring. Since my snow dance didn’t seem to work — not one cross-country ski “fix” this year — it’s time to start thinking of the fun of spring.

Freesia, dahlias, and most gladiolas are like flowering pets 
Close up of yellow freesia flowers

Freesia Magdalena
Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA (

Marty favors freesia, a plant I’ve never planted. I didn’t realize until researching them, that they aren’t bulbs, rather corms which are similar. Both are underground storage units, as are tubers and rhizomes. But bulbs are, well, bulbous and layered inside, like an onion whereas corms are flatter. When you dig up corms in the fall, spent ones are withered up, each clinging to the new corm. Crocus and gladiolus are also corms.

Hardy in zones 9 to 10, like dahlias and most gladiolas, freesia must be dug up each fall in our Zone 5b to 6 and stored over winter. That’s an unlikely routine for me to embrace, I admitted to Marty. Though over the years, I’ve had dahlia-loving clients with stunning gardens packed with the beauties. Their passion for caring for their dahlias is like tending to a beloved pet. A flowering pet – I get that :^)

Close up of a purple dahlia

Dahlia pinnata
Juni from Kyoto, Japan / CC BY (

How to plant freesia

Freesia is a popular cut flower because of its sweet smell and long-lasting blooms. Each twelve to fifteen-inch stem showcases a dozen trumpet-like flowers. They come in an array of colors, including lavender, purple, orange, red, pink, white, cream, and yellow. Freesia planted in the spring will provide a glorious late-summer display. Be sure to plant them in groups of eight to ten about two inches apart for a beautiful presentation. Better yet, why not plant them in pots so lazy Mary (that would be me) can merely bring them into the garage to store over winter. Brilliant idea! But when planting them, I’ll have to be sure the containers are tall as freesia have long taproots. Big feet as dear old momma would say.

Crocosmias are hummingbird magnets 
Orange Crocosmia Flower

Crocosmia (Crocosmia lucifer)
Photo: JLPC / Wikimedia Commons

Another lazy Mary tip— Why not plant the stunning, deer resistant crocosmia corms come spring. They’re a hummingbird magnet, with bright orange, red, or yellow arching flowers. They stand tall, about three feet, with sword-like foliage and won’t require digging up in the fall as they happily overwinter here.

I asked Marty about using bone meal as a squirrel deterrent as well as fertilizer. “I used to use bone meal, but dogs love it,” she said as I pictured Marty’s canine kids digging up the bulbs as she is planting them. Instead, she uses Pro-Start 2-3-3, by North Country Organics, mixed with the soil when planting bulbs to assure healthy root development. It’s the phosphorus, which is also in bone meal, that encourages happy roots.  Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

To learn about favorites to plant in the fall, click through to Beautiful Bulbs well worth waiting for…

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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