Bulb Planting Tips

 In Bulbous plants, Bulbs, Container gardening, Corms, rhizomes,etc, Gardening tips, Seasonal Gardening

Bulb Planting Tips – my top 10!

Spring-flowering bulbs should be planted from the beginning of autumn through to late December.

Autumn is nature’s natural planting time and provides a fantastic way to add early colour to your garden, patio or balcony every spring.

strips of colourful tulips

Massed tulips at Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

Planting spring flowering bulbs in autumn means you can start enjoying the joys of spring early in the season!

Narcissus, daffodils, alliums, tulips, hyacinths, Crocus and lots of other small bulbs can be planted now.

Plant them in your garden, on your balcony or patio.

By carefully selecting a range of spring flowering bulbs it is possible to have blooms from January to June!

The first to emerge are the snowdrops.

Next come Crocus, dwarf Narcissus and the first early tulips.

Allium will flower from mid-May until far into July so making the right choice lets you enjoy wonderful colour for six months of the year.




Here are my Top Ten Bulb Planting Tips :

1. Planting

Deep planting is best

Before planting, loosen the soil thoroughly and work in some compost.

Then dig a hole and arrange the bulbs in an upright position in the hole.

Small bulbs can simply be put in any way up. They will right themselves and come up anyway!







2. When to plant

Spring flowering bulbs can be planted from late summer to December.

But my advice is to try to plant them before freezing weather sets in.

Tulips can be planted latest of all. In this blog I explain why!




3. Planting depth

chidren planting bulbs from a white bucket, Bulb planting tips

Children bulb planting

The general rule of thumb for the planting depth is to plant a bulb twice as deep as the bulb is tall.

So for large bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths plant about 10-20 cms deep.

For smaller bulbs (snowdrops, Scilla, dwarf Iris and Crocus) plant about 5-10 cms deep.

Of my ten bulb planting tips this is probably the one that gardeners most often get wrong .







4. Planting distance

Large bulbs need more space between them than small ones.

Plant large bulbs at an average of 12 cms apart and small bulbs at an average of 5-7 cms apart.

The spacing interval also depends on the visual effect you want to achieve.

For a casual, natural-looking effect plant the bulbs at random distances apart. Broadcast your bulbs and plant where they land!

If you want a solid-colour floral carpet effect; plant all the bulbs at the same distance apart.




5. Soil type and drainage

Purple allium flowers

Allium bulbs like good drainage

Sandy soils drain rainwater off fairly quickly.

Clay soils tend to retain moisture longer.

Because bulbs don’t like soggy conditions, you may want to take extra precautions if you have a clay soil.

Do this by mixing sand or compost in or sprinkle some potting grit into the planting holes before putting the bulbs into them.

I find that adding grit to the bottom of the planting hole of dwarf Iris reticulata and to planting holes of Allium bulbs pays off.






6. Water and frost

watering plants, Bulb planting tips

Soak your bulbs in!

Bulbs should be watered immediately after planting.

This encourages them to produce roots.

The sooner the roots have developed the sooner the bulbs can tolerate cold and frost!

Most spring flowering bulbs are perfectly hardy and do not require frost protection. The exception would be when they are planted too shallowly.







7. Flower bulbs in pots and containers 

Jet Fire, Daffodils in a stone pot

Jet Fire daffodil

Planting flower bulbs in pots and containers is easy to do.

Choose a pot or container with drainage holes.

Place a few broken pot pieces over these holes.

This way, excess water can escape easily.

Then put potting soil into the container until it reaches the right planting depth for the bulbs.

Arrange the bulbs on top of this soil.

Then add more potting soil until it reaches just below the rim of the pot.

Bulbs in pots and containers can actually be planted more closely together than if you were planting them in the garden soil.

For a varied, more natural look, try taking advantage of contrasting flower heights.




8. Protect your bulbs and containers

Flower bulbs can tolerate cold winter temperatures.

But don’t plant bulbs too close to the side of the pot. This is because this is the very place that frost can penetrate.

If a very hard frost is forecast then you could wrap the pots with an insulating material. Try using bubble wrap, sacking or or even old clothes!

Alternatively you could place them temporarily in a sheltered spot.

Terracotta pots can crack during the winter if surplus water cannot drain away.

snow and fir branches on plant pots, Bulb planting tips

Fir branches covering plant pots

This due to the expansion of the soil inside them during freezing weather.

You can prevent this problem by planting the flower bulbs in a plastic pot that can be placed inside the terracotta pot.

Once again, make sure that any excess water can drain off.

During a hard frost you could fill the space between the two pots with insulating material.

Why not cut the branches off your real Christmas tree and use these to insulate your pots? I find this works very well for me!






9. Planting in layers

layered bulbs, flower bulb, garden, Bulb planting tips

Layers of different bulbs with pansies on top

You can plant flower bulbs in layers (also known as the sandwich or lasagna system) in your garden as well as in pots and containers.

Bulbs that flower latest in the season (such as tulips) are planted in the lowest layer.

Bulbs that flower earlier – such as crocus or grape hyacinths – are planted above.

Planting in layers will have no adverse effects on the bulbs.They will simply flower one after another in the same spot.

So the same pot or container will provide flowers for many more weeks!


Interested? Find out how here.




10. Enjoying your bulbs again next year

bulbs to naturalise, daffodils

Naturalized Ice Follies and Carlton daffodils

Many bulbs can be left in the soil after flowering.

Just leave them alone and let the leaves wither back naturally on their own. Whatever you do don’t rush to cut those leaves off too soon!

Next year these same bulbs can produce another beautiful display!

I find that it helps if you help them along by providing fertiliser. Apply this fertiliser (either organic or inorganic) when the shoots emerge from the soil and repeat again immediately after flowering. Dilute liquid tomato feed is perfect for this.

I’ve pulled together some thoughts on the best spring flowering bulbs to naturalise here.



What works for you?

Are there other bulb planting tips that you have to share?

What bulbs are you planning to plant this autumn?

Are there any particular problems that you encounter when growing spring flowering bulbs?




More info

Daffodils that just grow leaves and fail to bloom is a common problem but easily avoided. Here’s my tips on how to avoid daffodil blindness.

If you love bulbs then you’ll love to read about my visit to world famous Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. Read about it here.

If your garden is windy then I have some recommendations to cope with that here.

During autumn 2020 I trialed a new bulb supplier called simply Dutch Grown. Here’s what I thought of their bulbs.

I’ve written another article on September bulb planting for Candide Gardening UK. It’s here to read now.


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