Melissa King’s Bulb Planting Guide
By Melissa King
Nothing says Spring quite like drifts of flowering Daffodils or big bold Tulips and what would Summer and Autumn be without vibrant Lilies, Gladiolus and Dahlias?
Flowering bulbs bring splashes of seasonal colour to your garden, and lucky for us, most bulbs are tough and easy to grow! They'll thrive in almost all conditions, provided there’s enough sun and good drainage - they also make for beautiful container displays too.
Bulb Planting Times
There are two main planting times for bulbs and it’s based on when they produce blooms. Autumn flowering bulbs are usually planted from late Spring to early Summer. Whereas, Spring flowering bulbs are planted in mid to late Autumn.
There are some bulbs that will flower within a known number of days from planting. For example, Gladiolus corms will produce flowers some 90 - 120 days from planting, so it's possible to plan ahead if you want a terrific display for a special event.
Also, while most Spring flowering bulbs can be planted from around mid March, there is an exception to the 'rule'. Tulips need 4-8 weeks of chilling in the fridge (not the freezer!) before planting and are best planted from late April to early May when soils have cooled.
Before You Plant Bulbs
- Dig or fork your soil over, breaking up large clumps and removing rocks and debris
- Add Scotts Osmocote Premium Compost and a fertiliser suitable for bulbs, such as Scotts Osmocote All Purpose Controlled-Release Fertiliser a few weeks ahead of planting and mix into the prepared soil.
- If your soil is heavy or badly drained, try growing bulbs in raised beds or in Scotts Osmocote Bulb Premium Potting Mix in containers.
Buying The Best Bulbs
Always buy plump, healthy bulbs from specialist suppliers. A bulb should be firm and full and not squashy or dry and withered. Also avoid anything, which looks diseased, damaged or smells a bit funny.
Most bulbous plants will grow and flower best in a sunny position although some will tolerate light shade for a few hours daily. Dense shade should be avoided - these bulbs may grow but won't flower well if they don’t receive enough natural light.
Full Sun Loving Bulbs: Anemone, Allium, Freesia, Hyacinth, Ranunculus, Daffodil, Jonquil, Lachenalia, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Gladiolus, Dutch Iris, Bearded Iris, Dahlia, Canna, Gladiolus
Filtered Sun to Medium Shade Loving Bulbs: Anemone, Lachenalia, Tulip, Daffodil, Scilla (Bluebell), Hyacinth, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth)
How To Plant Bulbs
As a good general rule, bulbs can be planted twice as deep as they are high and roughly the same distance apart. Most bulbs like to be planted pointy end up - except Ranunculi which like to be planted claw down.
Bulbs growing in pots can be planted at the same depth as in the garden. However, they can be grouped much closer together when grown in the pot to create a really spectacular effect.
Melissa’s Top Tip: If you’re unsure which way the bulb goes, plant it sideways, it will turn the correct way up as it emerges.
Tubers should be planted and spaced in the same manner as bulbs. Dahlia, Bearded Iris and similar tuberous and rhizomatous plants should be planted with their 'necks' at or just above soil level - they should never be buried too deep under the soil.
Getting The Best From Your Bulbs
Bulbs respond well to regular feeding. Before planting, incorporate Scotts Osmocote All Purpose Controlled Release Fertiliser into the soil to promote strong healthy growth and a spectacular flowering display. Feed again when flowering has finished - bulbs develop next year's flowers after they have flowered and before the leaves die down. Lack of food at this time may affect the quality and quantity of flowers next year.
When your bulbs have finished flowering, allow the leaves to die down naturally. Removing the foliage prematurely can also jeopardise next year’s flower display.
How To Store Bulbs
Most Spring flowering bulbs can be left in the ground to flower year after year. While they like moist, well-drained soil during their peak growing times, they should be allowed to dry out a little when they are dormant (after their leaves have died down). Excess moisture during these months could result in them rotting.
Some bulbs, like Tulips, should be lifted every year after the leaves die down. Simply lift the bulbs and place them in a warm spot, away from direct sunlight, for a few days to dry. Then, gently brush off excess soil and place bulbs into mesh bags or old pantihose and hang them in an airy place - again away from direct sunlight - until next planting time.