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
Before you plant your bulbs, make sure that your soil is moist but well drained. If you have clay soil, your bulbs will likely struggle during their growing season, so we advise that you add plenty of organic matter (ideally every year). 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
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.
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.
|Bulb||Season||Planting depth||Planting distance between bulbs||Site|
|Tulip||Autumn||10cm (4″)||10cm (4″)||Sunny with well-drained soil|
|Daffodil||Autumn||10cm (4″)||10cm (4″)||Sun or part shade|
|Grape Hyacinth||Autumn||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)||Autumn||10cm (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|
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.