Buying bulbs from home stores and nurseries

You can buy bulbs in so many places these days. If you're a novice and need some planting information, want top-size bulbs, and need help with your selection, garden centers and nurseries are often your best choice. Home centers have a reasonable selection but usually sell smaller bulbs, and they rarely provide much gardening information.

Here are the advantages of buying bulbs in person:

1 Instant gratification and impulse buying: You can get the bulbs you want, or come across others that tempt you, and buy them on the spot.

1 Immediate planting: Shopping and planting on the same day is an option if you have the time and are feeling gung-ho.

1 The chance to observe the bulbs: You can handle the merchandise before buying, checking the bulbs' appearance, heft, and size.

And here are the drawbacks:

1 Poor storage conditions: Normal display-rack or display-box conditions aren't ideal for bulbs. Some may dry out; others may sprout prematurely. The smaller the bulb, the faster it dries out. In spring, summer-blooming bulbs are often displayed in home stores weeks, if not months, before the soil is warm enough for planting them.

1 Lack of variety: Selection isn't all that varied.

Buy spring-blooming bulbs early for late-summer to early-fall planting. That way, the bulbs will be fresh and in the best condition, and you'll have the biggest selection.

1 Questionable contents in the bin: Bulbs may get into the wrong bin as customers pick through them. You may end up with the wrong color or a completely different type of bulb.

When selecting your bulbs, read bin or packaging labels with care so you know the names of what you're buying as well as something about the plants, like how tall they get, when they bloom, whether they grow in sun or shade, and how far apart and deep to plant them.

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