Do I Need A Bulb Planter: Learn About Using Bulb Planters In The Garden

Flower bulbs add a special touch of color to the landscape that are easy to plant and manage. Whether you have spring- or summer-flowering bulbs or both, well-draining soil, nutrients, and planting depth are all important components to getting the plants off to a good start. A bulb planter is a foolproof way of getting the depth correct. This is important so plant shoots don’t have to go too far to see light and to keep tall plants from flopping over into the dirt. This means your color display will take half the time but be just as beautiful.

What is a Bulb Planter?

When it comes time to plant bulbs, you can do it a couple of different ways. You can use a shovel and loosen the soil in the area to a depth of 8 inches (20 cm.) and then plant bulbs individually or in trenches. You can also use a bulb planter. These come in a couple different varieties. You may wonder, “Do I need a bulb planter.” Bulb planters in the garden are simply tools which can make the task easier and faster, but you can also rely upon your trusty spade.

The general rule of thumb for planting depth is 2 to 2 ½ times as deep as the diameter of the bulb. Package instructions will have more specific digging and planting depths. These are the optimal depths for the bulb and will result in happier plants that don’t fall over and can get through soil easily.

Using bulb planters not only facilitates the task but most have measurements on them to help you gauge how deep the bulb needs to be installed. Instructions on how to use a bulb planter will vary dependent upon the type of unit you purchase. Some are manual and a few can attach to a standard electric or battery powered drill. They are widely available online or at nursery centers.

Types of Bulb Planters in the Garden

The simplest bulb planter is a little handheld manual device. These usually have depth measurements on them and simply core out the soil to the level at which the bulb should be planted.

You can get one of these that requires you to kneel at soil level or a variety that is for standing. These generally have a foot rest that you use to press the tool into the soil, cutting a 2 ½ to 3 ½ inch hole (6.5-9 cm.). Some also have a plunger that allows you to release the soil you just cut out back into the hole on top of the bulb after you have placed it in the cut out.

For those of us who like to work smart, not hard, there are drill powered models. These attach to a standard drill and cut a 2 inch (5 cm.) hole that is up to 9 inches (23 cm.) deep. A drill auger is similar and cores out holes up to 2 feet (.6 meter) in depth, a level that is actually too deep for most bulbs.

How to Use a Bulb Planter

Using bulb planters in the garden can be especially useful if you are planning a widespread color display and are planting dozens or even hundreds of bulbs. Most do not work well in clay soil but perform perfectly in loose sandy or even light to medium soil. Clay soils will need amendment, as they do not drain well and should be hand tilled the first time with plenty of compost and a bit of grit to increase drainage and add nutrients.

The hand tools are pretty straightforward, requiring a bit of manual pressure to get the hole cut out. Drill powered tools need either electricity or battery power and are often most suitable for multiple plantings where squatting and kneeling while digging can be a nuisance.

With any planter, you will be cutting out a plug of soil, placing the bulb, and then either releasing the soil from a plunger back into the hole or covering the hole manually. These tools make bulb planting faster and easier than standard spade digging and can get you on the road to a spectacular seasonal color display in half the time.

8 Best Bulb Planter to Help You Plant Quickly

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When spring arrives, it is bulb planting time. If you love planting tulips, daffodils, fruit, or vegetables, a bulb planter is the perfect gardening tool for you. This powerful tool is very easy to use and makes any horticultural job faster and easier.

A bulb planter will dramatically increase your planting efficiency when planting bulbs, potted plants, vegetables, flowers, or pulling up soil plugs in your lawn. Forget about back-breaking work. This smart gardening companion does all the hard work for you so you can effortlessly create the right sized hole for your plants.

Once the bulb planter has removed a soil plug, and your bulbs have been safely ensconced in the fertile soil, you can feed your bulbs and seedlings with nutrient-rich plant food. Your flowers or vegetables are now ready to sprout and bloom to their full potential.

World’s Best Bulb Planters

Visions of spring-flowering bulbs dance in my head as bulb-planting time is just around the corner. While I flip through catalogs, I can’t help but dread the tedium of digging holes to nest the beloved bulbs. This year I promised myself a bulb planter to make the job easier.

Bulb planting tools help reduce the hard work by grabbing dirt in their cone when they are pushed into the soil and leaving a bulb-ready hole. Simple short-handled hand bulb planters are perfect for small planting jobs. For bigger jobs or particularly hard soil, get off your knees and consider a foot-powered long-handled bulb planter.

Above: The simple rule of thumb I was taught is that bulbs need to be planted in a hole about three times as deep as the bulb is wide.

Hand Bulb Planters

Above: Made of boron steel with a hardwood ash handle, the Small Bulb & Crocus Planter by DeWit measures 10 inches in length and creates holes about one and a half inches in diameter. DeWit Tools has been producing hand-forged Dutch garden tools in the north of Holland since 1898 $24.75 at Garret Wade.

Above: The Burgon and Ball Bulb Planter is endorsed by the Royal Horticulture Society. It features a deeply serrated edge for easy insertion into dirt, as well as convenient depth markings $25.99 from Life and Home.

Above: The Sneebeor Hand Bulb Planter is hand-crafted in Holland of solid stainless steel $78.30 at the Garden Tool Company.

Above: Fiskars Bulb Planter creates holes like other planters, but also has a spring-loaded handle that releases bulbs for planting. Crafted of rust-resistant steel, the 2.25-inch diameter planter comes with a lifetime warranty $5.49 at Fiskars.

Long Handled Bulb Planters

Above: The DeWit Double-Handled Bulb Planter enables you to make a hole and deposit the bulb in one step. “Simply place a bulb into the cone-shaped reservoir created by the blades, drive the blades into the ground, and open.” The ash handles are 30 inches long, and the hinge doubles as a step for foot-driven power $56.50 at Lee Valley.

Above: The hand-forged Sneeboer Ash Handled Bulb Planter features a one-piece stainless steel digging end and a wide T-handle made from FSC Certified ash. It has a convenient footstep to help power the tool into the soil $109.20 at the Garden Tool Company.

Above: The Smith and Hawken Solid Forged Bulb Planter is 39 inches tall and has an ash handle Now own sale for $44.50 (regularly $89) at Target.

Above: The Joseph Bentley Long Handled Bulb Planter features easy-step tread edged wings for foot-driven plantation into the ground $48.49 through Amazon.

(N.B.: Wondering what to plant this fall? See “Squirrel-Proof Crocus.”)

(NB: See our earlier Garden Tool Posts for more gardening helpers.)

The Bulb Planter: A Garden Tool You’ll Never Use

Fall is the season for planting spring-flowering bulbs, but don’t feel tempted to buy a bulb planter to help you plant them. This is the kind of tool you try once, then put aside, never to use again.

The idea with this tool is to push down on the soil, twisting right and left, thus boring a hole into the ground of the required depth, then you pull out a plug of earth. Next drop the bulb in the hole and put the plug back in. Presto, you’re done! It certainly sounds easy enough.

In actual fact, though, it rarely releases the plug on its own. You need to push it free or bang the tool on the ground, with the result that the plug falls apart and you usually end up using your hands to fill in the hole. Even spring-loaded models, supposedly designed specifically to release the plug easily, rarely do so without some extra effort.

And that’s not the only problem. The resulting hole is only wide enough for one medium size bulb, say a tulip, a hyacinth or a daffodil. It’s too wide for crocuses, squills, snowdrops, etc. and too narrow for crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis). I’ve yet to see a bulb planter with an adjustable diameter.

Plus bulbous plants are generally too small to make much of an effect if planted alone: they need to be planted in groups. Try planting 20 tulip bulbs with a bulb planter and you’ll see: it requires a lot of effort.

Also, the current recommendation for tulip bulbs is to plant them extra deep, 12 inches (30 cm) down. This not only puts them out of the reach of squirrels, it helps perennialize them. Yet the average bulb planter is only about 6 inches (15 cm) high. So you’d have to drill a second hole on the bottom of the first one it get it right.

In my experience, it is far easier to use a simple garden shovel, which you already own, I’m sure, to dig a larger hole in which to place several to many bulbs at once. With a shovel, you can easily adjust the depth as required. For any precision planting, like when you’re planting bulbs in between established plants, a garden trowel does an equally good job and requires less effort than a bulb planter. And you probably already own one as well.

So, at least in my experience, this is one tool the average gardener really can live without!

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About Laidback Gardener

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

7 of the best bulb planters to buy in 2020

They are the ideal garden accessory for planting flower bulbs with ease

Bulb planters are the ideal garden accessory for planting flower bulbs. They make light work of planting bulbs, helping to achieve a professional result quickly and easily.

Choose from smaller hand-held bulb planters or larger long-handled bulb planters to find the right one for you. With serrated stainless steel blades, each style will help you to plant bulbs, seedlings and flowers with ease as no digging is required. Some have been designed with foot treads, while others are simply inserted into the soil by hand.

Take a look at some of our favourite bulb planters below.

With a forged head and foot treads, this steel bulb planter provides stability and durability to help you plant your bulbs with ease. Best of all, the long-handled bulb planter will save your back as no digging is required.

On the hunt for a hand-held bulb planter? Well, this affordable style from Burgon and Ball ticks all the right boxes. Thanks to its serrated stainless steel blade, it provides easy movement through the soil and excellent rust resistance. It's also much easier to store away in a shed or garage.

This stainless steel bulb planter has a large T-shaped handle to make the grip and manoeuvre much easier. Marked with a 4-inch scale for accuracy, the head also features a tread-edge to make it easy to apply enough force to create the perfect depth holes for your bulbs.

This smaller bulb planter is easy to use simply twist the bulb planter firmly into the ground to the required depth to remove a core of soil. Place the bulb into the hole and push the button to release the soil over it. You'll have beautiful flowers in no time!

This long-handled planter has a sharpened nose and a handy foot peg, making it easier than ever to plant bulbs. Made from burnished carbon steel with an oiled ash handle, it has been designed to stand the test of time.

In a vibrant green, this handy bulb planter is ideal for bulbs and bedding plants. It has a steel core cutter with a deeply serrated cutting edge to help you precisely make a hole in the ground.

Coming in at just under £5, this stainless steel bulb planter is great for planting bulbs and seedlings fast. Simply brush off dirt after use to keep it in the best possible condition.

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