Spring Bulb Planting Tips – The Garden Centres Don’t Want You to Know About

Sunny springtime garden with tulips

It may seem a little unseasonal to talk about spring flowering bulbs when we’re only at the start of autumn, but they’re actually is no better time than now to prepare your garden for its spring display. While you can plant any spring-flowering bulbs from September to early December, the success rate of some spring bulbs will be greater if you time their planting more carefully. (We’re telling you now so you can buy them ready!) When selecting your bulbs, avoid any that are damaged, shrivelled or feel soft, go for plump, firm bulbs and aim to plant within a week or they’ll start to sprout.

Planting Depths and Understanding Timings

As long as all your spring-flowering bulbs are in the ground before the first frosts you can expect a fair display from them next year, for most bulbs, September and October is the optimum time, the warm autumn soil encourages strong root growth before falling dormant in the winter, ready for them to burst into bloom in the spring. The rule of thumb when planting most bulbs is to plant them at two to three times their depth. So, for a 5cm bulbs plant it 10-15cm deep at the bottom of the hole. Plant too shallow and you run the risk of dividing bulbs and ‘flopping’ stems. Plant too deep and your flowers might never emerge. Hardy summer-flowering bulbs, such as lilies, alliums and crocosmia, should also be planted in October.

Try not to be tempted to plant tulips too early, although staggering timing means you can increase the length of display in your borders. Plant tulips from mid- to late autumn – this is later than most bulbs but a late planting can help reduce problems with the disease tulip fire which is fatal to the bulbs.

Naturalising Effect

Aim to plant in groups of at least six, as the more bulbs that are grouped together, the better the display. Typically, 25 to 50 bulbs may be needed to make an impressive show. If you want your bulb display to look less contrived, there’s a trick amongst gardeners that creates an effective naturalised effect. With a hand full of your chosen bulb, gently ‘throw’ them across your border, where they land is where you plant them.

The Secret to Snowdrops

Garden centres are very good at luring you in with dry snowdrop bulbs by the packet. Don’t fall for it, it’s a complete waste of money and time! The success rate of dry bulbs of snowdrops, aconites and bluebells is very (very!) low. Instead, wait until spring when they’ve just finished flowering where you can buy them ‘in the green’. Plant these ‘in the green’ bulbs when they arrive, they won’t look much for the current spring you’ve planted them in but next year, they’ll perform well.

Needing more spring interest in your garden? Call our design team on 0330 202 1955 today.

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