Home Gardening Bulb Auger: Easy Way to Plant Bulbs

Bulb Auger: Easy Way to Plant Bulbs

Bulb Auger: Easy Way to Plant Bulbs
Lily "Satisfaction" is aptly named.
Orienpet Lily “Satisfaction” is aptly named, so beautiful and easy to grow, especially when enlisting a bulb auger.

If my garden were a banquet table, I would concede that sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. I dine and garden with my eyes and with little respect to time, space, quantity and boundaries. And as a friend recently pointed out that we humans do have a certain life expectancy, perhaps it’s time for me to rewrite and retool my chore-list to include some time and labor-saving devices. That said, I am a HUGE fan of the bulb auger, a super handy specialized bit of sorts that fits handily on the end of a cordless drill and makes quick work of creating the most perfect earthen hole and home for the naked flower bulb. It also works very well with plant starts and seedlings.

VIDEO: Easy Way to Plant a Lot Bulbs with an Auger

Here’s the my step-by-step bulb planting guide in video above and photos, below.

Exhibit 1: The Flower Bulb

big lily bulb
One happy healthy lily bulb ready to be tucked into a spring bed to prepare for its summer bloom.

Exhibit 2: The Bulb Auger and Drill

bulb auger drill and bulbs
The corkscrew planting auger is about two-feet long and three inches wide.
A close-up of some lily bulbs ready to be planted.
digging holes lily bulbs
Four holes drilled in no time, and lily bulbs planted lickety-split.

I look for spaces in the garden free of spring blooming bulbs. In the above photo, I “drill” between the snowbells and bluebells to a depth of about 10 inches. Then, I return four inches of soil to the hole, place the bulb in the hole tip up so it’s six inches deep and return the rest of the soil, patting down firmly. As a general rule, I plant bulbs three times the depth of the bulb’s width. So if the bulb is two inches wide, I plant it six inches deep. I used to add bone meal fertilizer to the hole, but despite what is written, bulldogs have exceptional noses and can smell a bacon bit at 200 paces. Digging for bonemeal is not an activity I wish to encourage.
lily bulb auger

Your efforts will be well-rewarded for years to come. Happy planting!


  1. Well, Tom – it’s been a good while since we’ve heard from you. It’s good to have you back in our lives! I have an old-fashioned drill with a cord and for years I’ve been meaning to buy a cordless drill. Now I have a real reason to buy one – that bulb auger looks like one of THE great gardening tools and will make my life so much easier. I think I’ll stick to daffodils as the squirrels have helped themselves to the blooms of the tulips – leaving me perhaps one in four for my viewing pleasure. Impudent little ingrates – they already take food at will from my bird feeders! Buddy’s looking as proud and self-contained as ever. Give him a tummy rub from me.

    • Thanks Sandra, Buddy is indeed in fine form these days, though waiting for more rain breaks to take walks. Yep, I gave up on tulips, as they are a favorite of all varmints. Lilies seem to be left alone, and I have no idea why. Daffodils are the best for being left alone by deer and returning to bloom each year. I’ll try not to stay away so long next time. I had a brutal cold and a case of the winter doldrums which I have kicked to the curb this spring. 🙂

  2. Why?? I have always been a fan of good tools and scoffed at gadgets. If a shovel is a really efficient way to plant because b/c of number you can plant, speed, then why use a drill which only lets you plant one at a time, and you have the possibility that you’ll hit a rock – and then &^%$, you’ll be in big trouble.

    Can you explain a bit more b/c it sounds like a way to break a tool?

    cynthia kling

    • Good question Cynthia. I like the auger for single bulb planting because it makes fast and easy work of it and I can plant in tight spaces without disturbing other plants. It only takes seconds to loosen the soil and then I put half the soil back in the hole for a soft pad and easy rooting for the bulb. I can drill six holes in less than a minute. I like shovels for bigger bulbs that need more room, like dahlia tubers, eremurus, bearded iris, and peonies, and save the auger for the smaller bulbs like lilies, daffodils, camassia, crocus, and leucojum. Drill, drop in, cover and onto the next hole. You’re right in that you do have to be careful and go slowly, as the auger can kick back if a rock obstructs the way. A shovel is at least 12 inches wide and the soil needs to be removed and placed on a temporary holder like a tarp or in a wheelbarrow before returning to cover the bulb or bulbs up. If I had 20 bulbs to plant in a grouping or drift, I’d surely use a shovel, but if I had 20 bulbs I wanted dotted throughout an area, I’d use the auger. Hope this helps explain my rationale for using one. As gardeners, we all have our own ways of making the world a prettier place, so here’s to how we each approach it to achieve a stunning result. Well wishes, Tom

    • So true Colleen, I put little pressure on the drill and let gravity work its magic while I hold firmly on the drill, but let go at the first kick-back.

  3. Hi Tom, glad you are feeling better. We have never met, but I thought of you and Buddy last night at my Bouvier’s first night of Rally obedience class. Next to our ring was the puppy class. And, you got it–in the puppy class was the cutest little bulldog. He was full of himself and having a good time!

    Love your garden!

    • Lynn, Buddy and I are honored that you thought of us when seeing such a cutie pie. My soft spot for bulldogs is even softer when it comes to bulldog puppies. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. For me, it has a lot to do with the kind of soil I’m working on – wondering how it does going thru a bunch of roots.


    • Hi Vincent, I will and I’m so sorry I haven’t kept things updated. I started out with a bang, and like most of the peach trees petered out. The best one is Nanaimo, but I’ll give you more info soon.

      • Thank you Tom.
        This year I just replaced my Frost peach almost die after almost 2 years with the new one. My Indian Free peach still OK. The Charlotte peach bare root ordered from Burnt Ridge still inactive since March 25th, might dry out. Hardired nectarine after 1st winter, leaf curl badly might be die soon. Not give up yet . Thank you for all information updating .

  5. Hi again, Tom.When I wrote I neglected to say what a lovely, welcoming driveway you have created. Anyone driving up it would know there is a kind, sensitive soul living in the house.

    • Hi Vincent,
      I feel your peach tree pain. 😉 Here’s my update. I’ve all but given up on all varieties now except Nanaimo for unprotected growing outside. I, too, have had dismal results in the last three or four years and my frost died too. Muir peach is a poor choice too in case you are thinking of that one. Mine is on death’s doorstep. Vincent what I’m doing now is growing peach trees in my high tunnel hoop house which keeps them dry. While you may not have a green house, I would now recommend planting the peach tree in a protected area, say under an eave facing south or under some clear plastic protection when the tree is in bloom. Our heavy rains in spring just do them in. I’m happy to report all of my trees in the greenhouse look exceptional and have fruited heavily. (I have no idea what pollinated them.) So my advice, is if you have a place that gets sun but keeps the trees drier, (you’ll have to hand water) then that is where I’d plant a peach tree in the maritime Northwest. Hope this helps. Oh and I also planted apricot trees in the greenhouse so I’ll let you know how that goes. Hope this helps, happy growing, keep up the good fight!

      • Hi Tom.
        Your information helps me and Pacific Northwest gardeners a lot. I don’t have a green house or tunnel for fruits trees yet. Sound like Nanaimo peach is a good choice so far, how is its productive fruit set and its quality? Besides all peaches this year I tried to plant Saijo and Izu persimmons hopefully they will do well in cooler climate areas. Saijo looks good so far but Izu take a long time until summer to leaf out for the first year. I bought them in the 3rd week of February @Sky nursery with a very good sizes tree, hopefully will fruiting early than waiting 3,4 years.
        I also have Nadia cherry plum and Sugar Twist Pluerry seems they do very well I very like them.
        Once again thank you so much for all updating information Tom.
        Best regards. Vincent.


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