SLOPpy Planting Warning

The following is a public service blog posting to warn gardeners about the travesty of planting spring flowering bulbs in straight lines.

To put it bluntly, gardeners don’t let other gardeners plant spring flowering bulbs in straight lines.

If you generally plant in straight rows, before you plant even one tulip bulb, please read the following.

The tendency to plant in straight rows is something called “straight line obsessive planting” disorder or SLOP.

Often found in gardeners who grew up planting vegetable gardens with ROWS of beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, etc., those with SLOP disorder almost instinctively plant everything in straight rows, often with the precision of equal spacing. It is only with great effort that they are able to plant in a more random fashion.

SLOP is of particular concern in the fall when it is time to plant spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and countless minor bulbs. If a gardener afflicted with SLOP plants these bulbs following their instincts, the result will be tulips (or daffodils or hyacinths) lined up like flower soldiers, ready to march into some kind of spring-time battle.

If you have this SLOP disorder, you must fight it. You must concentrate when planting bulbs.

If you don’t, when you see that straight-as-a-wooden-arrow-from-Oregon row in the spring, you will wonder why you are less than satisfied with your spring flowers. You will not get the display you had hoped for, the one that causes your neighbors to stop in front of your house, roll down their car windows and holler out “gorgeous flowers”.

You may think that your row of tulips is orderly, and even convince yourself it looks good, but now you know it is really the result of SLOP.

This single best way to avoid SLOP is don’t dig individual holes for each bulb. Not only will this take more time, it will also increase the chances that you will have a SLOPpy row when you are done. Instead, dig nice wide holes and then throw the bulbs in and let them grow wherever they land.

That’s it. It sounds easy, and usually it is. But even within a big hole, if you have SLOP, you may try to arrange the bulbs in rows. Don’t do it. Get help. Invite a friend over to help you plant the bulbs, admit to them that you have this disorder, and ask them to monitor your planting so you don’t give in to it. If you are lucky, they might even help you dig the holes.

The bulbs are just now arriving, so I hope you’ve read this in time to prevent a SLOPpy tulip planting in your own garden.

Save your SLOPpy planting for the vegetable garden!

(Note, I planted the tulips above by myself, even though I suffer personally from SLOP disorder. But because I am aware of the disorder, I can manage it. I also planted this lettuce bed, some of my best SLOPpy planting!)


  1. The tulips make me want to find an empty spot and plant a straight lines though!

  2. Carol, I can honestly tell you that this is one disorder I have avoided! I don't have it at all! Several neighbors are afflicted and could use an intervention! Have you pulled an intervention team together?


  3. I guess I really should order some tulips! No SLOP here except, as you say, in the veggie garden.

  4. Even if I planted them in rows, the squirrels usually have their own ideas about design;-]

    SLOP? It could be worse, Carol! You could have caught something called Always Neat And Lined-up.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. hahahaha. My mom SLOP. Thankfully, it is not genetic.

  6. You could do a very interesting geometric garden with straight lines of bulbs!

    But I agree, natural is better. I toss out a handful of bulbs and then plant each one where it falls.

  7. Oooooooo. I hope the SLOP doesn't come upon me when I open that first bag of bulbs. Thank you for the warning. I will avoid it like the plague.

  8. I believe there is a medication to treat SLOP from the same people who are working on the mostly male disease, CLOD (compulsive lawn obsession disorder). Now if they could only work on my problem with CRS.

  9. HaHaHa....I think SLOP is genetic. You got the gene, I didn't! It would NEVER occur to me to plant neatly.

    Your little sister

  10. I've threatened to hurt people for planting bulbs in straight lines. Don't make me come find you, you know who you are.

  11. The tulips are gorgeous, no matter how they're planted. :)

  12. Perfect timing, Carol--I just got an e-mail that some of my bulbs will be arriving soon. I have been such a SLOPpy bulb planter; I will try to mend my ways this fall. Beautiful planting of tulips in the photo!

  13. I love your veggie plot especially the diagonal planting.

  14. I didn’t know I had SLPO disorder but I do. Is there anything I can take for it?

  15. I guess I could really have this disorder, but I try really hard to plant freely. Your little veggie plot with plants all in a row sure does look good, though....

  16. Those tulips are gorgeous indeed, and that's a mighty fine bed of lettuce. I shall keep your advice in mind when planting bulbs or lettuces.

  17. I never thought anything should be planted in a straight line. I'm not sure I'm capable of it, even with vegetables, so probably as well i don't have any!

  18. Definitely not my issue, but I almost want to have it to make my lettuce look like yours!


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