How to Plant Flower Bulbs
If you’re in the process of creating your ideal garden, planting a few bulbs here and there is a great way to incorporate colour and life into the picture you are painting. However, knowing how and when to plant these bulbs is essential in order to achieve the desired effect. To help you out, we’ve created an easy-to-follow guide on how to plant flower bulbs.
When to plant bulbs
Depending on the species you’re planting, the time of year at which you choose to plant is very important:
Autumn & Winter
- This is peak bulb planting time. So, if your bulbs are spring-flowering - such as Snowdrop, Daffodil, Hyacinth and Crocus bulbs - the ideal time to plant these is in the months of September and October.
- May and June flowering bulbs - such as Lilies and Alliums – also need to be planted at the same time.
- For Tulips, any time between September and the middle of November is ideal.
- A few species can be bought while in growth; these are known as as “bulbs in the green”. These include aconites, bluebells and snowdrops and should be planted between February and the end of March.
- For summer-flowering bulbs, such as Gladioli, the best time to plant these is in early spring.
- Bulbs such as Dahlias and Nerines should be planted by late summer to allow them to flower in the autumn.
Where to plant the bulbs
Choosing where you want your bulbs to be planted will be strongly influenced by how you want your garden to look. However, you’ll want to take into consideration the type of bulb and the conditions in which it thrives.
For bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, a warm and sunny location with good drainage is best. These are bulbs which originate from mainly dry summer climates so an attempt to imitate this will work in their favour.
When planting bulbs such as Snowdrops, Bluebells and Aconites, you’ll be looking to create a moist, cool woodland environment to see the best results. If your soil is rather sandy and dry, adding garden compost improves moisture retention, while also helping with drainage.
The planting process
When it comes to planting your bulbs, don’t waste time. Planting later than the recommended plant-by date means they do not have time to establish before flowering. The display will be poor and they may well die. In addition, keeping the bulbs in storage means they dry out more than is good for them. Bulbs in the green should be planted within 3-5 days of receipt as they deteriorate quickly after that. To create a good clump, larger bulbs should be in odd numbered groups, dropped on the ground and planted as they fall for a natural look. Smaller bulbs such as snowdrops should be planted the same way, although the numbers in each group will obviously need to be larger.
Planting bulbs in the ground
- Larger bulbs such as alliums and daffodils can be planted in individual holes which need to be sufficiently deep to allow the bulb to be covered by at least twice its own height in soil. Smaller bulbs such as Crocus can be planted in communal Graves – a shallow hole that is the area of the clump you want to plant. The planting depth – proportionately – should be the same as for bigger bulbs. If you can, improve the soil with well rotted compost at the same time.
- You’ll want to make sure the bulb’s ‘nose’ or ‘shoot’ is facing upwards. If you’re unsure as to which end is the top, put the bulb on its side, The leaves and flower will grow up and the roots will grow down.
- After the bulb is in place, replace the soil and then firm gently with the back of a rake. Take care to avoid stepping on the soil afterwards.
Planting bulbs in containers
If you want to plant bulbs in a container instead of in the ground, the process is pretty much the same as most bulbs are ideal for either option. When planting in pots and tubes, however, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Use a mix of three-parts soil and one-part compost, with a bit of added grit.
- Position the bulbs at three times their depth. They can be very close together, however.
- Plant in layers of varieties, with larger bulbs at the bottom and smaller bulbs nearer the top of the container. This way, for example, you can can have snowdrops and crocuses, followed by dwarf narcissi, followed by daffodils, and – finally - followed by tulips for a display that runs from late January into May.
- Make sure you water the bulbs at regular intervals whilst they are growing. Once the leaves have started to die down, reduce the water and stop when their foliage is dead. Bulbs can stay like this for a couple of years, although we would always recommend planting them out in the autumn and replacing them with fresh compost and bulbs for the best show the following season.