Bulbs, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants

How To Plant Bulbs in Autumn

Planting bulbs has always been one of our favourite autumn gardening jobs. It gives us something to look forward to in our garden, where the beautiful flowers can appear from early as January! Planting bulbs is also a wonderful way to experiment with different varieties each year, where many will go on to naturalise. In this guide, we will provide you with your very own planting instructions for your bulbs, and helpful growing tips too.

When to Plant Your Bulbs

When your bulbs are delivered to your home, it is best to plant them as soon as you can. But if you cannot, store them in a dry, dark location for a few days (some species such as Tulips and Alliums can last even longer).

Your bulbs can be planted between September and December, but earlier in the season is always better. This allows them more time to establish before the harsh winter temperatures kick in. 

Preparing your Garden

How-to-plant-bulbs

Before you plant your bulbs, make sure that your soil is moist but well drained. Bulbs love loamy soil, which has equal portions of sand and silt (and a little bit of clay too). To achieve this soil, add a two inch layer of organic matter to your soil every autumn. In spring, mix it in with the top seven inches of soil. Planting in pots is another great option; for this we would use soil that is two parts loam with one part gravel.

If you are planting your bulbs in pots, its size should also cater to the eventual height and spread of your chosen varieties. For example, taller Tulips will appreciate a deeper pot, while little plants such as Crocuses are suited to window boxes. If you are planting a mix of bulbs, why not read our guide to making a bulb lasagne? This method helps you achieve an abundant flowering display that can last for many months!

Positioning your Bulbs

How-to-plant-bulbs

Most bulbs have a pointed tip to them, and this should be facing upwards when they are planted. When burying your bulbs, be gentle, as smaller bulbs (such as Grape Hyacinths) can easily be pushed over again. Begonias will not have a sharp point, but you can often identify the tip emerging from the concave (indented) side.

When choosing a planting site, the species’ natural habitat gives a good idea as to where they’ll grow best. Late winter flowering bulbs such as Snowdrops are accustomed to very cold weather, so will thrive in cold pockets. Forest dwelling species such as Bluebells are used to dappled shade, so will flourish when planted beneath deciduous trees. 

Planting Instructions

A general rule of thumb is that bulbs can be planted at a depth of two to three times their height. For example, if your bulb is 4cm tall, you can plant it between 8cm and 12cm deep.

If you are planting in a container, plant your bulbs their width apart, and three times their height deep.

BulbSeasonPlanting depthPlanting distance between bulbsSite
 TulipAutumn 10cm (4″) 10cm (4″)Sunny with well-drained soil
 DaffodilAutumn 10cm (4″) 10cm (4″)Sun or part shade
 Grape HyacinthAutumn 10cm (4″) 5cm (2″)Sun or part shade
 Winter Aconite Autumn 5cm (2″)  5cm (2″)Sun or part shade
 Bluebell Autumn 10cm (4″)  10cm (4″)Sun or part shade
 Snowdrop Autumn 10cm (4″) 5cm (2″)Part or dappled shade
 Ranunculus Autumn 5cm (2″) 10cm (4″)Sun
 Crocus Autumn 8cm (3”) 5cm (2”)Open and sunny
 Hyacinth Autumn 10cm (4″) 10cm (4″)Sunny with well-drained soil
 Iris Autumn 10cm (4″) 15cm (6″)Sunny with well-drained soil
 Allium (Large) Autumn 20cm (8″) 15cm (6″)Full sun
Allium (Small)Autumn10cm (4″)5cm (2″)Full sun
 Anemone Autumn 5cm (2″) 5cm (2″)Full sun or part shade
 Ipheion uniflorum Autumn 10cm (4″) 5cm (2″)Sunny and sheltered
 Ornithogalum nutans Autumn 8cm (3″) 10cm (4″)Sunny with well-drained soil
 Puschkinia libanotica Autumn 10cm (4″) 5cm (2″)Sun or part shade with well-drained soil

Aftercare

Once your bulbs have been planted, water their soil evenly (unless it has recently rained). When foliage begins to appear, you should increase your waterings. Around February time, apply a general-purpose fertiliser to bulbs growing in your garden’s borders. For container grown bulbs, apply liquid feed every two weeks during their growing season (such as tomato food diluted to half strength). This will help them grow strongly.