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3 Techniques for Bulb Planting

There are three main approaches to getting bulbs in the ground in the fall: Poke, drill, or trench. Determining the best approach for you will depend on several different factors: You’ll want to consider how many bulbs you’re planting, your garden’s layout, and your comfort with different tools. 

Here, we discuss the different advantages of each technique. 


Man demonstrates the "poke" approach to planting bulbs using a trowel.

A “poke” approach to planting involves creating a small hole in the soil and dropping in one bulb, although planting two or more bulbs in one hole is okay for some smaller species of flowers. 

You can use any small garden trowel or garden knife (like a Hori-Hori) to dig the hole. There are also many specialized tools designed to make planting bulbs easier. These tools include dibbers, daffodil trowels, tulip trowels, and step-on planters that allow gardeners to use a foot and leverage their body weight to dig each hole. 

Planting one bulb at a time can be less disruptive in established landscapes, and allows you to work bulbs into beds around shrubs and other more mature plants. It’s also ideal for creating smaller groupings of blooms for a cottage garden style. However, this approach can be time consuming if you want to plant a large number of bulbs in a concentrated area. 



A man uses a handheld power drill with a special auger to plant flower bulbs.

A drill with a bulb auger attachment makes quick work of digging holes. Some bulb augers have a long neck, allowing you to stand and walk as you drill. Other models are short and designed to be used while kneeling. Before buying an auger, be sure to check the manufacturer’s description to make sure it’s compatible with your drill. The bulb auger that Colorblends sells works best with variable-speed hammer drills.

Using a drill can work well for planting in sod, or planting across a large area. Be sure the planting area is free from rocks. It’s a technique that’s preferred by many landscaping professionals. With a two-person team—one person to drill and the other to drop in bulbs—this can be an especially efficient way to get a large number of bulbs planted quickly. 

This technique is not ideal for those who aren’t comfortable with power tools. If you don’t have a cordless drill, you’ll also want to make sure you have access to a power outlet and enough heavy-duty extension cord to reach the desired planting area. If you have an irrigation or lighting system, be very mindful that you know where the lines are before you begin to drill.



Man digs a trench in a flower bed to plant bulbs.

Trenching is the preferred approach when you want to create a densely blooming bed of spring flowers. Loosen the soil and dig a trench to the desired planting depth. Then, arrange your bulbs across the bottom of the trench. You can arrange the bulbs in rows for a more formal and uniform look, or just spread them evenly for a more naturalized look. Then, you’ll fill the bed back in with top soil, making sure the bulbs are covered fully. Lightly mulch the bed to prepare it for winter. Finally, water the bulbs in.

Man arranges flower bulbs in a trench.


See How Its Done

In the video below, you can watch several different examples of all three techniques for planting bulbs in action. 

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