How to choose and plant bulbs

Bulbs must be one of the easiest plants to grow all they need is a well drained site and plenty of sunshine. If you want colour next spring now (September- December) is the time to plant.

First, if possible check that bulbs have originated from cultivated stock and not collected from the wild. Avoid any damaged, shrivelled, or ones that feel soft, instead choose bulbs that are full and firm. I know it’s not always possible to examine the bulbs first, but you can always return them in they not in good condition and remember with bulbs “size matters”, the bigger the bulb, the more flowerpower, so always buy the biggest bulbs you can afford.

Choose a well drained sunny spot (not waterlogged, the bulbs will only rot in the ground).  When planting in the ground, as a rule of thumb, plant each bulb about three times its own depth and space them around two bulb widths apart. It is important to plant the correct way up, generally speaking plant with the pointed end facing upwards. Always make sure the soil is replaced and firmed around the bulbs after planting, taking care to remove all air pockets, air pockets are a sure way to kill your stock.

In the border, underneath shrubs or in gaps between perennials, bulbs will provide a riot of colour long before other plants burst into life. Daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, and tulips are great for this purpose. If you want a more formal approach try planting tulips in beds of a single colour, when they have finished flowering you can remove the bulbs and replant with half-hardy annuals. If you have a wooded area try planting crocus, scillas, anemones etc. under the trees where the soil is soft and moist, the effect can be quite breath-taking. A dull drab lawn can be brightened up considerably by the planting of winter aconites, snowdrops, dwarf daffodils, crocus and others. A very easy way to achieve a natural effect in grass is simply to walk down the lawn and throw the bulbs in front of you, then plant them where the land. Children love helping with this task. If you are planting a large number of small bulbs in grass, a great tip is just lift a large piece of turf up and plant a handful of bulbs underneath before replacing the turf and firming it back down. Always remember to let the bulbs die down after flowering before cutting the grass.

If you are growing in Pots and Tubs the trick is to keep it simple, grow each variety on its own and make sure your container suits your bulb type e.g. for crocus use a shallow container, for daffodils use a deeper container. Planting could not be easier, put a layer of broken pots or small stones in the bottom or the container fill with any good multi-purpose compost, add extra grit for drainage, plant your bulbs about three times their own depth and water in. It’s a good idea to cover the tops of the pots with netting, this helps to prevent vermin and some birds from stealing your stock. Keep the pots moist, protect from severe frost and wait for the burst of colour in spring. Bulbs suitable for pot culture include dwarf daffodils, dwarf tulips, crocus, snowdrops, and many others even some of the bigger daffodils make excellent subjects in pot’s, examples include Dutch Master, Sir Winston Churchill etc. Some types and varieties of bulbs can also be forced to bloom early e.g. hyacinths, certain varieties of daffodils and others but that’s a subject for another day.