Tips for beautiful bulbs

Plant spring-flowering bulbs in April to provide your garden with a splash of colour in September.

April is the month to bury some garden treasure. The treasure in question is spring-flowering bulbs, which should be planted now so that they can provide your spring garden with a blaze of colour. Life is a garden that rewards you with glorious blooms with minimal effort, because bulbs are easy plants that, once they have received the attention they need at planting time, only need regular watering during winter to ensure success.

At this time of the year, a wide selection of bulbs is available at garden centres. We answer your most commonly asked questions about spring-flowering bulbs:

When do I plant bulbs?

April is the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs as the soil has cooled down. Tulips are the exception and are best planted in May.

Where do I plant bulbs?

Bulbs that can take a full sun position include ixia, ornithogalum and ranunculus. Allium, endymion, freesia and leucojum (snowflakes) need a shady spot, but can take a few hours of sun early in the morning or afternoon. Bulbs that like sun but require protection from the hot midday sun include hyacinth, anemones, tulips, narcissus, daffodils, muscari, lachenalia, Dutch iris and tritonia. An east-facing bed which receives morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.

How deep do I plant each bulb?

The different bulbs need to be planted at different depths and spaced differently, so read the planting instructions carefully. As a general rule, bulbs need to be planted at a depth of three times the actual height of the bulb. Before planting, dig the bed over to about the depth of a spade and add a generous amount of compost – bulbs do best in cool, well-drained soil. If you are planting bulbs amongst established plants, dig the hole a little deeper than required, add a spade of compost and a teaspoon of bonemeal. Do not use fresh manure as this may burn the bulbs. Feed throughout the growing season and after flowering with 3:1:5 Vita Flower or Hadeco 2:1:1 Bulb Food.

How much water should I give them?

Water is the single most important factor in ensuring success from your bulbs. The bulb's roots need to be kept continuously moist from planting time onwards. The ideal watering is done with a sprinkler, for approximately 45 minutes every 4-5 days.
Monitor bulbs planted in pots carefully, as their moisture will dry out quickly and may need topping up every day or two.

When can I expect flowers?

Early spring (end of July into August)

Daffodils such as 'Paperwhite' (very early), 'Flower Carpet', 'Fortune', 'Ice Follies', 'Juanita', 'Trevithian' and 'Winter Gold', ranunculus, Dutch iris, anemone, freesias, leucojum and hyacinth.

Mid spring (August)

Daffodils such as 'Barrett Browning', 'Birma', 'Early Splendour', 'Margaret Mitchell, 'Monique' and 'Orange Bell', ranunculus, ipheion, muscari, Dutch iris, anemone, freesias, leucojum and hyacinth.

Late spring (end of August to mid-September)

Daffodils such as 'Acropolis', 'Buttercup', 'Cheerfulness', 'Home Fires', 'Mount Hood', 'Pink Select', 'Tahiti', 'Thalia', 'Salome' (very late) and 'Minnow' (very late), ixia, sparaxis, ranunculus, tritonia, ipheion, muscari, tulips, anemone, freesias, leucojum and hyacinth.


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