Bulbs are impressive things. They are pretty tough as their job is to be the storage vessel for an entire plant while it is dormant.
Bulbs evolved to allow plants to survive periods of drought, cold and other less than optimal growing conditions (however very few like wet soil especially when dormant). Some plants multiply by growing new bulbils.
Flower bulbs can cause skin irritation so please always wear gloves when handling them. Many bulbs are harmful if eaten, so keep out of the reach of children and pets.
- Store your bulbs somewhere cool, dry and dark.
- Wrap them in paper, keep them in a net or on bone dry sand. Don’t store them in a plastic bag as they may rot.
- Store them out of reach of mice and squirrels.
As a rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted at three times their own depth. There are exceptions to this though, usually with summer-flowering bulbs, so please check the instructions for your particular choices.
For naturalising, planting bulbs no shallower than three times their own depth will help them to survive (again, check with your species).
Bulbs will not do well in very wet soil, so add some grit to the planting hole and make sure there is enough drainage.
- For naturalistic planting, scatter a handful of bulbs and plant them where they fall. Use a bulb planterto make individual holes. This is especially useful in grass where you can place the grass tuft back on the hole.
- Mark the spot where you have planted them.
- If planting in containers, bulbs do not need to be so deep, but make sure they are not touching the outside edge of the pot or they could get frost or heat damage.
- Plant your bulbs where it is recommended for the species – many spring bulbs like full sun but a cooler place to rest during the summer, so if their spot gets overshadowed by trees later on that is not a problem. Planting elsewhere may mean your bulbs won’t flower well.
- If your garden is rural or near woods, you may want to cover your newly planted bulbs with chicken wire to stop them being dug up by squirrels.
- Feed your bulbs especially while the leaves are growing. This will help them keep and build stores for next year’s flowers, rather than using all their energy on this year’s.
- Cut off spent flower stems to prevent the formation of seeds (unless you want them), as these will use valuable resources the plant could otherwise save for next year.
- Allow the leaves to die right down before removing them. This allows the plant to take their nutrients back into the bulb.
- If required, bulbs can be lifted and stored once the leaves have died off. Many summer flowering bulbs can be brought in for winter to keep them frost-free. Planting in bulb basketscan help this.
- Bulbs’ worst enemies are the wet and animals like slugs, mice and squirrels. Protect from these and you should get a good display year after year.
Guide to planting spring flowering bulbs
Generally speaking, the later the bulb flowers, the later it can be planted.
Plant bulbs in the autumn, when the weather has cooled and the soil has become damper again after the summer.
Late flowering bulbs can be planted right into January, although September to November is the best time so they can set down roots before the winter. They need a cold snap to stimulate flowering. Tulips will need to be planted after the first cold snap.
However, many spring flowering bulbs are tough and forgiving, they can be planted well into spring providing they are still in good condition (by this time you will often see a green shoot). They will flower at the correct time the following spring.
Guide to planting summer flowering bulbs
Plant hardy summer flowering bulbs in the spring, from January if you live in a mild area. From February/March up until May if not.
Be sure to check the planting depth for your bulbs – some summer flowering plants have rhizomes or corms rather than bulbs and these tend to enjoy being closer to the surface. For example, irises prefer to have the top of their rhizomes above the soil and to be unshaded.
Check the directions for planting your non-hardy bulbs (some are half-hardy, some are tender) as they can differ.
Generally they can be started in pots in February in a warmish greenhouse and then moved outside in May when all danger of frosts have passed.
Some bulbs we sell are tender and do better as conservatory plants.