We are all familiar with the sight of the first flowers of spring, crocus, snowdrop, daffodil, tulip and hyacinth. And now is, apart from tulips which should go in a little later, the perfect time to be planting spring bulbs.
The great thing about bulbs is how easy they are to grow. Just put them in the earth at the right depth and they are almost guaranteed to come up. That’s because the flower is already in the bulb, with all the nutrients it needs contained within the bulb itself, so especially if you are planning a display for a single season only there is no need to feed or prepare the soil beforehand.
How to plant spring bulbs
As a general rule, bulbs should be planted at a depth of three times their height. This rule does vary slightly with different varieties so check the information that comes with your bulbs before you put them in. Make a hole, put the bulb in and cover it up – it’s as simple as that! However if you have a lot to plant then you might find a bulb planter useful. A simple little tool that removes a core of soil, holding it inside the planter until a button is pushed which releases the soil again. It really does take the hard work out of planting.
It is usually recommended to plant bulbs a certain distance apart but this really is a recommendation. If you want your plants to look ‘naturalised’ then gently throw them on the ground and plant were they land. If you want a ‘clump’ then plant close together. Bulbs don’t increase dramatically in size or spread much so don’t worry about overcrowding
How to choose the best bulbs
The best quality bulbs have a firm neck and surface, feel heavy for their size, are not sprouting (though a little green at the neck is ok), have no active root growth and generally do not look diseased, mouldy, damaged or shrivelled. Or buy from a reputable mail order bulb supplier like Suttons!
Growing bulbs in containers
The great thing about bulbs in containers is that you can take them away from view when they have finished flowering. Hide them behind the shed to die down and put another container in its place – that way you get flowers on your patio all year round and no unsightly dying foliage.
Try planting 2 of 3 layers of different types of bulb in the same container for months of continuous flowering. Put the biggest at the bottom and the smallest at the top and make sure you separate each layer with a good layer of soil.
Another thing to do with bulbs is to underplant containers, perhaps you want to add to colour to a foliage plant or to disguise the pre-flowering stage then just plant with colourful bulbs as well as your main feature.
What to do once they have flowered
Remove dead flowers where possible, but never remove the leaves. The bulbs need the energy from the dying leaves so leave attached until yellow and withered. If you need to remove them from a bed then try ‘heeling’ them back into the earth somewhere out of sight. Although bulbs will live for numerous years many people treat them as annuals and replace every year. That way you can remove the unsightly leaves earlier and also avoid the hazard of digging them up by mistake when sorting out the flower beds later in the year.