Dealing with Common Bulb Problems

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated March 9, 2020)

Some of the best-loved flowers grow from bulbs, and their popularity is attributed to the fact that they are perennials—meaning, they grow year after year, without the need for more planting. Some of the better-known varieties of flower bulbs are tulips, lilies, hyacinths, iris, crocus, and daffodils, to name just a few.

A flower bulb is likened to a mini greenhouse in that it contains energy and food storage for dormant plants. An onion is a bulb, and if you've ever left an onion inside of a bag in a dark closet for a great deal of time, then you know that it will eventually sprout a shoot from one end, and its roots will grow from the other. The same type of growth happens with flower bulbs. Planted in the dormant season of fall, root-side down, the flower bulb sprouts during the growing season either in early spring, mid-spring, or summer, depending upon the variety of bulb.

While most gardeners agree that planting and growing flowers from bulbs is quite easy, especially given the fact that they are mostly low maintenance, there are some common problems associated with flowering bulbs. Here is a list of the most common bulb problems and how to deal with them:

  • Earwigs eat decaying organic matter, and infestations can destroy flower bulbs. Since it will be impossible to entirely rid your flower garden of decaying matter, the second choice is to feed the earwigs elsewhere, so they won't bother your bulbs. Lay down a deep layer of permanent organic mulch well below your bulbs, and the earwigs will stay there. You can also mix a solution of Ivory liquid soap and water and spray your bulbs. Earwigs don't like the bitter taste of soap, and will leave your bulbs alone.
  • Squirrels eat flower bulbs and sometimes become a nuisance in flower gardens. As with earwigs, you can feed the squirrels elsewhere and they may leave your bulbs alone. Or, at your local home-improvement store you can purchase a specially formulated product to keep squirrels out of your garden. You can also install mesh screens over your bulbs to stop squirrels and other varmints from digging your bulbs.
  • Thrips are slender, winged insects that feed on flower bulbs by puncturing them and sucking out the contents. As with earwigs, you may rid your garden of thrips by spraying a soap solution and you may also place sticky traps around your garden. Remove the larvae and hiding places, and then dust your plants with insecticide to rid your flower garden of thrips.

Bulbs that refuse to bloom are caused by only one reason: There is not enough energy stored within the bulb to produce a bloom. When you choose bulbs from bins, make sure that they are healthy. Novice gardeners tend to water their bulbs too much, resulting in rot. A rotting bulb will not produce leaves and, instead, decays into the ground.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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