Bulbs to grow in spring

Spring-flowering bulbs are a delight in your garden beds and containers – simply plant them in autumn and enjoy the bright colours that appear as the weather begins to warm the following year.

Types of spring-flowering bulbs

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, anemone, crocus and iris are all types of common spring-flowering bulbs that offer something slightly different.

  • Different varieties will be sent to you as either bulbs, tubers, corms or rhizomes:
  • Bulbs,, like daffodils and tulips have a typical bulb shape, with the underside showing visible
  • Tubers usually have a thick stem and root but also come with fine roots and small, visible
  • Corms can be large, round and flat while others are very small and look like brown nuggets.
  • Rhizomes, such as Iris germanica have a thick root and enlarged bulbous nodules.

How to prepare the soil before planting bulbs

Bulbs like free-draining soil and the ground should be dug at least a week before planting, adding some coarse sand or grit if the soil is heavy or compacted.

Add a fish-based multi-purpose organic fertiliser or farmyard manure to the surface, giving an extra boost to flowering.

When you receive your bulbs

Your bulbs will arrive in autumn, ready to be planted to make sure you get the most from your plants. Try not to store bulbs for too long as this increases the risk of them failing or rotting.

If you do need to store them before planting, keep bulbs in a dry and frost-free environment and either wrap in paper or keep loose in a breathable cardboard or wooden box.

How to plant bulbs

Plant bulbs at a soil depth of three times the height of the bulb. Loosen the soil at the base of the hole, adding a handful of coarse sand or grit to the base if the soil’s heavy or clay, and place the bulb in the hole with the pointed root facing upwards.

Mix the soil with some compost and fill the hole, firming around it to take out any air pockets. Mark your bulbs with a label and water thoroughly.

How to space bulbs

Generally, it doesn’t matter if bulbs are planted close to each other as over the years they’ll naturalise in their position. Plant your bulbs wherever you’d like them to spring up, mixing tall varieties with more wide-spreading flowers.

How plant tubers

A tuber bulb must be planted horizontally (flat), with the old stem at the top in a hole that’s big enough to take it (about 5inches, or 12cm, deep).

Place the tuber in the hole, with any visible buds pointing up. Fill the hole with composted soil, label and water.

How to plant corms

Corm bulbs are planted very close to the surface, about just one inch (2.5cm) from the top of the soil. Some large corms can be seen partly emerging from the surface.

Large corms must be planted with the concave (inward curve) side facing up, be covered with a fine layer of composted soil and watered.

With small corms, it’s difficult to determine which is the concave side, but it’s fine to plant these with either side facing up.

How to plant rhizomes

Rhizome bulbs must be planted horizontally with half of the bulb below the soil surface and the other half exposed.

Make a planting hole the same size as the width of the bulb, place the bulb in the hole and firm the soil around the covered part of the bulb. Water the bulb well after planting.

How to plant bulbs in containers

Plant bulbs in containers the same away as above. Make sure the container has good drainage, with holes in the bottom and ‘crocks’ (broken pieces of crockery) in the soil to boost drainage.

Creating season-long containers

Create colour all-year-round in your containers by planting flowers like pansies, violas, snowdrops and aconites with bulbs. These will flower when your spring bulbs are dormant, keeping an attractive display throughout the year.

On top of a layer of deep-planted tulips and daffodil bulbs, plant a top layer of summer and winter- growing plants. It’s easy to do and the two varieties will thrive if well-watered and the soil is prepared in the same way as above.

Planting indoor bulbs

Indoor bulbs can be grown in decorative pots in a light, draft-free place in your home. Indoor bulbs should be placed in a pot of compost, with the top of the pointed end of the bulb planted level with the rim of the pot.

The tip of the bulb should be slightly exposed from the surface, with the soil firmed around it, and be well-watered after planting.

After spring bulbs flower

When spring-flowering bulbs have finished flowering, leave the green leaves as they are, as they will give the bulb energy, so it grows back next year.

If the leaves turn yellow, they can be cut back to the base.