Remove Bulbs From Garden: How To Kill Flower Bulbs

Remove Bulbs From Garden: How To Kill Flower Bulbs

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By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Although it may seem strange, there are many reasons why some people might want to get rid of flower bulbs. Perhaps they’ve spread into unwanted areas or maybe you’re changing the looks of your garden with other flowers. Flower bulbs can be invasive and sometimes it is difficult to remove bulbs from your garden, but with patience and perseverance you can succeed in eliminating your garden of undesirable bulbs.

Eliminating Bulb Plants

The first thing you will have to do when trying to remove bulbs from garden areas is to put a black plastic covering over the bulbs during growing season. This will block out all the sunlight and will prevent bulbs from growing. In the fall, dig out the unwanted bulbs.

If any of the plants are above ground, you can pull them out, but this might leave some roots and sections of the bulb underground. If this is the case, a new plant will grow next year. The most successful way to get them out is to use a hand shovel and dig at least 6 inches (15 cm.) wider than the bulb and to dig deep enough to get all the roots.

How to Kill Flower Bulbs

A commonly asked question is, “Will herbicide kill flower bulbs?” The answer is yes. These will kill the unwanted bulbs, but you must be careful, as the herbicides will also kill your other plants.

Spray the herbicide on a hot, dry day. If the temperature is too cold, the herbicide will not work because the bulb will be too tight for the herbicide to penetrate. The herbicide needs to be applied directly onto the foliage so it can travel down to the bulb and kill the roots.

It also helps to cut the foliage so it will open the pores to get the herbicide into the bulb more effectively. Bulbs can be awfully persistent, so digging, spraying, and covering may have to be repeated as many as three growing seasons to completely kill the bulbs.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.

This article was last updated on

Read more about General Bulb Care

According to Fairfax County Master Gardners, the wild onion plant looks similar to spring onions that you would buy at a farmers' market or grocery store, but they are thinner and 6 to 12 inches taller with solid, flat leaves that can be curly at the top. This winter perennial emerges from underground bulbs in late autumn and grows through winter and into spring before dying during summer. They will also appear when you've stopped mowing regularly.

You may want to eat them, and they are edible, but make sure you know for sure that what you're eating is a wild onion. There are poisonous plants that look very similar. A wildflower called the Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) can be highly toxic to humans and pets. It is shorter with flat leaves and will not have the wild onion's pungent odor. Also, do not eat wild onions from cultivated turf areas, as herbicides or other chemicals may have been applied to the area.

The five key elements of a successful flower border

The five elements of a good flower border are a tree, shrubs, perennials, annuals (or biennials) and bulbs.

Perennials are plants that stay in the border for 2+ years. Some are evergreen but many die down in winter, to re-emerge in spring. Annuals are plants that germinate, flower, set seed and die within one year, and biennials do the same in two. These are often called ‘bedding plants’ and are very useful for filling gaps.

Bulbs are plants that store all the energy and nutrition they need for a year’s flowering in an underground storage unit called a ‘bulb’. They, too, disappear underground around 6-8 weeks after flowering, leaving space for you to plant another flowering plant. Spring bulbs include daffodils and tulips, in summer you have lilies and in autumn, there are nerines.

Preventing Bulb Pests

Related To:

Red Tulips in Bloom

To help avoid damage from pests, plant only healthy bulbs with no signs of injury or disease.

Photo by: Shutterstock/CrispyPork

To help avoid damage from pests, plant only healthy bulbs with no signs of injury or disease.

Look out. You’re not the only one enjoying the spring-flowering bulbs in your garden. Snails and other pests are enjoying them, too—but for all the worst reasons. They’re munching on the foliage, sucking plant juices or leaving slimy trails and other signs of damage.

Some pests even attack your bulbs in storage before you have a chance to plant them or spread viral diseases as they feed.

To guard against these pests, make sure you don’t bring any home with you. Choose healthy, top quality bulbs when you shop and avoid those with signs of injury where pests can enter. When you plant, make sure your soil drains easily since moist conditions can invite problems.

Allen R. Pyle, staff horticulturist for Jung Seed Company, says slugs and snails are often a problem in damp soils. Both are mollusks, a name that comes from a Latin word for “soft” and describes their bodies. Snails have shells while slugs do not.

Both slugs and snails hide during the day and come out at night to feed on bulb leaves. To control them, set traps by burying a cat food can, tuna fish tin or other small container in your garden, keeping the rim close to the surface of the soil. Fill the container half-full of cheap or stale beer, or use a solution made from 2 tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of baker’s yeast and 2 cups of warm water. The yeast will lure them in and they'll drown. You can also buy a commercial bait if you prefer.

You can also try placing flat boards in your garden. Check under the boards each morning and destroy the slugs you find there by dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.

Materials that interfere with snail and slug mucus can also be effective. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth, a powder made from the fossils of small aquatic organisms, around your bulbs its sharp, microscopic edges will deter or kill these pests. Add more after it washes away in the rain or when you’re watering.

Copper barriers, which can be purchased from garden centers and nurseries, can also help. If you use them in a raised bed, be sure you've controlled the slugs and snails in the bed first or you’ll trap them inside with your plants.

Aphids are other serious bulb pests, says Pyle. Suspect them if you see black spots on your foliage. These tiny, soft-bodied insects produce droppings called honeydew as they suck plant juices. Mold that forms on the droppings causes the spots.

Distorted flowers or new growth are additional signs of aphids. Work fast to eliminate the aphids because they reproduce rapidly. If you have a small infestation, cut off the affected plant parts and trash them or crush the aphids.

For larger aphid populations, try knocking them off with a stream of water from the hose (be careful not to damage your bulbs). If they persist, use a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.

Distorted flowers can also signal thrips, tiny bugs that feed on plant sap and make leaves and petals look speckled, silvery or stippled. Like aphids, they can damage bulbs in storage and spread viral diseases.

Thrips can be hard to see and control. You’ll probably need repeated applications of an insecticidal soap, horticultural oil or spinosad (a natural substance that comes from a soil bacterium) product. Make sure you get good coverage, applying whatever you use to both sides of the leaves and in any “nooks and crannies.”

If you're growing bearded iris, watch for problems with iris borer, a brown moth. Siberian iris, Iris reticulata and Dutch iris can also be affected but to a lesser degree.

Adult iris borer moths lay eggs that overwinter on iris foliage or debris. The eggs hatch in spring to feed on the rhizomes and make streaks and tunnels in the foliage. You may also see spots on the iris that look water-soaked.

Pyle notes that insecticides aren’t very effective on iris borer when these pests are in the larval stage and they've already bored into the rhizomes. But you can treat your plants with pyrethrin, neem or a systemic insecticide. Follow directions on the label to know how often to spray you'll probably need multiple applications. If your damage is minor, cut off and destroy the damaged leaves and crush any larvae you find in tunnels.

How to Get Rid of Clover Weed in Your Garden

Are you wondering how to get rid of those stubborn clover weeds from your lawn? This Gardenerdy article will let you in on all the different methods―both natural and chemical―to deal with this problem.

Are you wondering how to get rid of those stubborn clover weeds from your lawn? This Gardenerdy article will let you in on all the different methods―both natural and chemical―to deal with this problem.

Did You Know?

Rather than being harmful, clover plants are actually beneficial for a garden, as they enrich the soil.

Clover is a small plant, characterized by its white blossoms and trilobed leaves. This plant is a low-growing perennial that propagates via seeds and stolons. It grows in a mat-like pattern. Clover can be identified by the oval or tear-like shape of its leaflets, and the presence of white crescent-shaped markings. The most commonly encountered species is the white clover, also called the ‘Dutch clover’ or Trifoliens repens, though other species such as the California burclover and red clover are also found.

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In stark contrast to the past, when clover seeds were intentionally added to lawn mixes, modern homeowners consider it a weed. There are several reasons for this. One is, the plant’s reputation of ‘taking over’ a lawn. The white blossoms attract bees, which keep people from walking barefooted on the lawn. The patches of clover weeds give an uneven coloration to the lawn. Moreover, the fruits of burclover are spiny, which pricks the skin and gets attached to clothing. However, the main reason why clover is disliked is because it appears out of place and supposedly spoils the look of a garden.

The situation became worse after broad spectrum herbicides came into use. These chemicals were found to be lethal to all weeds, but also killed clover plants in addition. Because of this, white clover was clubbed together with the other weeds. Clover is considered undesirable both, in grass and flower beds. It can be removed both, organically, without the use of chemicals, as well as by chemical means.

How to Get Rid of Clover

Natural Methods

✦ Find and uproot individual clover plants using your hands. Clover grows in clumps, which makes doing this task easy.

✦ Insert a knife one inch into the soil at the plant base, and slice the roots off to ensure that they don’t stay behind on uprooting.

✦ Alternately, you can use a hand fork by inserting the prongs below the roots, and then forcing the plant out of the soil. Pull the plant upward with one hand while doing this.

✦ Cover the soil with a layer of mulch, such as wood chips. This will prevent clover seeds from germinating, especially in flower beds. Make sure to replenish the layer regularly, to compensate for loss of mulch due to decomposition.

✦ Apply cornmeal in the soil, making sure to mix it well in the top layers, and spray water on it. This releases chemicals from the cornmeal, which retards the growth of weeds like clover, without affecting grass or other plants. It also enriches the soil with organic nitrogen.

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✦ Regularly watering your lawn will cause the grass to grow stronger and resist clover infestation.

✦ Neglecting the lawn may actually be beneficial, as grass will grow and surround the clover plants, depriving them of sunlight.

✦ If bare spaces exist in your lawn, sprinkle grass seed on it. Provide adequate water till they germinate. Mow them only after they grow 4 inches tall.

✦ Mow the lawn regularly, after setting the blade at a height of 3 inches. This keeps the grass taller, which blocks off light to the surrounding, low-growing clover. Using a grass box will prevent dispersal of clover seeds.

✦ Add sugar to the soil, making sure to mix it well in the top layers. Then, spray water from a garden hose, to allow the clover plants to absorb it. Sugar is harmful for clover weeds.

✦ You can use one of the several organic weed killers available in the market―such as feHEDTA―which kill weeds without harming other plants.

✦ On landscaping beds, nail down landscape fabric around the base of the plants with U-shaped spikes. This fabric blocks off all light, while allowing for the plants to be watered, thus preventing clover from growing around the other garden plants. Later, remove the dead vegetation.

✦ Alternately, you can simply cover the clover plants with sheets of newspaper, which will block out the sunlight.

✦ In spring and fall, first cover the patch of clover with top soil and compost, and then spread grass seed over it. When the seeds germinate, the grass will out-compete the clover.

Chemical Methods

✦ Fertilize your plants well, both in summer and autumn, to make sure they grow strong and are able to compete with clover. Begin feeding them in April, when new clover growth begins.

✦ You can use a broad-spectrum herbicide, such as glyphosate, to eliminate clover plants. However, these chemicals do not discriminate between weeds and other plants, so be careful not to apply them near other plants in the garden.

✦ Adding vinegar will make the soil more acidic, which makes survival of clover difficult.

✦ Clover prefers nitrogen-poor soil. So applying a nitrogen-rich fertilizer like sulfate of ammonia to the plants will inhibit clover growth.

✦ Apply a selective herbicide, such as a mixture of 2,4-D, dicamba salt and MCPP in the early months of autumn. This will kill the clover without harming other plants.

✦ When applying a herbicide, choose a spray rather than a granular form, because it is readily absorbed. Add some dish soap to the spray, as this will ensure that the chemicals stick to the waxy clover leaves and will not trickle down. Also, apply herbicides only if the lawn is healthy and adequately watered.

Is it Advisable to Remove Clover?

The white blooms of clover attract bees, which also helps pollinate flowers in ornamental gardens, causing more blooms. Because of these benefits, more and more people are cultivating clover in their gardens, rather than removing them.

While you won’t benefit from removing clover, if you still want to go ahead, then simply maintaining a lush lawn with regular watering and fertilizing will keep those white blossoms away.

So, what to do with bulbs in pots after flowering?

Store the bulbs after flowering to plant them again in the garden in fall for flowering at Christmas. Keep in mind that bulbs in pots will not bloom a second time indoors after flowering. So you can either leave the bulbs in pots or remove them (then dry and put in bags) to store over winter.

There are two types of bulbs: hardy and half hardy plants. Hardy spring bulbs flower in the garden in late winter or early spring. They are among plants that you should not grow in a greenhouse. Hardy bulbs can be large and small.

You need to keep large bulbs in cold and dark place for 16 to 18 weeks to make the roots grow. This period is know as ‘chilling’. Which means that bulbs need a period of cold temperatures to stimulate biochemical response in the bulb which activates the embryonic flower so it starts developing.

A technique to grow bulbs indoors earlier in the season is called ‘forcing’. Forcing basically fakes chilling period. At home people put a few bulbs in refrigerator or unheated basement for 2 to 16 weeks depending on the bulb type. After the chill time provide bulbs with light and warmth for leaf and flower development.

You don’t need to force small bulbs. Just plant them in pots and place them outdoors. Wait until the flower buds are about to open and move them indoors. It is important to keep the compost moist at all times and the maximum temperature should be no higher than 60° – 65°F during the flowering period.

Half hardy plants don’t need a period to chill. These plants are Amaryllis and Paperwhite. These flowers are native to warm climates and don’t need a chilling period to trigger flowering. So just plant them in pots with soil and place in indirect light.

What to do with potted tulip bulbs after flowering?

The first step is to cut off the flowers but not the flower-stalks of potted tulips. Continue to water and feed potted tulip until stalks become dry and shriveled. Wait for them to die which approximately takes 6 weeks. They should turn dry and brown.

Then, you need to remove these stalks. It is enough to just gently pull them so they break from the bulbs and come out of the ground. Now you can either leave the bulbs in pots over winter outside or in a greenhouse as long as the temperature is not too far below freezing but will also not heat up during the day.

If you are living in cold regions, cover the bulbs in pot with 18 inches of mulch on top. Alternatively, you can remove the bulbs from the pot. Clean the dirt off the bulbs. Now you need to choose which bulbs you are going to keep.

Keep the bulbs of a good size (at least 10-12 cm in circumference) and the ones that are firm to touch. Discard bulbs that show signs of diseases. These usually have soft or rotten spots. Also, get rid of the bulbs that are damaged. Let them air dry on a piece of paper in a cool, dry and dark place.

Most of the time gardeners keep bulbs in paper bags in the garage or basement. You can also store bulbs in trays or net bags. Make sure that storage place is well-ventilated. Planting time for these bulbs is September-October for flowering in January-April.

What to do with daffodils after flowering in pots?

Although daffodil bulbs bloom once every year, they will do it annually for decades. So you shouldn’t throw away daffodil bulbs after flowering in pots unless they have soft or rotten spots. You can grow daffodils in the same pot from the same bulbs for three years. Just make sure that the container is deep enough.

Leave daffodil bulbs in pots after flowering. Add 1-2 oz. of fertilizer or bone meal and place the pot in a shady spot. Continue watering 1-2 times a week, generally when the soil dries out. Once the leaves die off, turn the pot on its side and let it dry out. Finally, move the pot to the usual place and let the bulbs go into chilling period.

Watch the video: A guide to garden bulbs for beginners


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