Planting Bulbs for Spring Colour
Just when you need a lift after a long dark winter snow-drops appear to brighten up the short days of very early spring. They are usually the first bulbs to flower but with careful planning you can have a display of spring bulbs from January through to June as bulbs are a very easy way to add much-needed colour to spring borders and containers, even for the most novice gardener.
There is a fantastic choice with literally thousands of glorious daffodil varieties, tulips in all shades, from dark purple to white, pretty crocus that make a bright and cheerful carpet of colour planted in lawns, brilliant blue scillas and sweet smelling hyacinths that fill the surrounding air with their glorious perfume.
When to Plant
Provided you plant them at the right time of year at more or less the right depth, they will reward you year after year with a reliable display of blooms.
Daffodils, crocus, hyacinths should be planted in the autumn ideally by the end of September to produce new roots before winter.
Tulips can be planted up to the end of November without it affecting flowering for the following season.
Where to Plant Bulbs
Most hardy bulbs, including tulips and daffodils, prefer a warm, sunny site with good drainage as they come from areas with dry summer climates and It makes sense to plant hyacinths with their wonderful fragrance by paths or in pots by a door. Crocus bulbs look wonderful in large drifts under trees where they’ll naturalise.
How to Plant
Plant with the nose (pointed end) at the top and the basal plate (flat end where the roots are produced) at the bottom
Work out the planting depth by roughly measuring the bulb from base to tip and doubling or tripling this length – this figure is the rough planting depth. For example, a 5cm (2in) high bulb should be 10-15cm (4-6in) below soil level ('the measurement is to the bottom of the hole')
On heavy soil add grit for drainage
Plant in irregular groups for a natural look – a good tip is to scatter bulbs and plant where they land.
Plant with a trowel or special bulb planter if you are planting just a few bulbs but for larger numbers of bulbs use a spade to dig out an area to the correct depth then place the bulbs in and replace the soil.
If you’re planting in lawns carefully peel back the turf, dig out soil to the planting depth and position the bulbs. Replace the soil then firm by treading lightly and replace the turf. filling any gaps with soil.
Most bulbs are ideal for growing in containers especially some of the showy alliums and tulips
For bulbs that are only going to spend one season in their container, use a mix of three parts multi-purpose compost with one part grit. For long-term container displays, use three parts John Innes No 2 compost mixed with one part grit Plant at three times their depth and one bulb width apart
Water bulbs regularly when in active growth, but you can reduce watering once the leaves start to die down and then through the dormant season. However, if you don’t lift from the pots and re plant continue to check pots in winter, ensuring they do not dry out completely
To promote good flowering next year, feed the bulbs every seven to ten days with a high-potassium fertiliser such as a liquid tomato feed. Begin feeding as soon as shoots appear, and stop feeding once the foliage starts to die down at the end of the season