31 October 2012
Planting Spring Bulbs
Everyone likes to see daffodils and crocuses appear in the spring - it makes you think that summer is just around the corner. Fortunately bulbs are easy to grow and can also be grown in containers, so there are very few people without the room for a small display.
Bulbs are useful for adding colour to spring borders, with tulips especially useful due to the range of colours in which they are now available. Snowdrops and scillas, are some of the earliest flowering plants in the garden, appearing in very early spring.
Daffodils, crocus and hyacinths should preferably be planted by the end of September, while tulip bulbs should be in place by the end of November.
Most hardy bulbs prefer a warm, sunny site with good drainage as they come from areas with dry summer climates. This includes daffodils and tulips. However bulbs from cool, moist woodland areas require a similar habitat in the garden.
Bulbs are usually purchased and planted when dry, in a dormant, leafless, rootless state, and should be planted as soon as possible as they may flower poorly if stored for an extended period or planted after the recommended time.
Prior to planting you may want to improve your soil, digging grit and compost into heavy soils and compost into light sandy ones.
Planting in borders
When planting bulbs in borders aim to plant a minimum of six bulbs in a group, though the more you plant the better the display. Typically, 25 to 50 bulbs may be needed to make an impressive show, if you have the space.
Dig a hole wide and deep enough for your bulbs. 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
Place the bulbs in the hole with their ‘nose’, or shoot, facing upwards. Space them at least twice the bulb’s own width apart
Replace the soil and gently firm with the back of a rake. Avoid treading on the soil as this can damage the bulbs
Some bulbs, such as winter aconites, bluebells and snowdrops, are thought to be best planted, moved or divided ‘in the green’, when flowering is over but they are still in leaf. However, dried bulbs are often offered and can be successful.
Planting in containers
Most bulbs are ideal for growing in containers, but those with large, showy flowers, such as tulips, lilies, arum lilies and alliums give the most impressive display.
It is important to get the planting medium correct to get the best from your bulbs. Where bulbs 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
Bulbs should be watered regularly while actively growing, but this can be reduced once the leaves start to die down and then through the dormant season. However, 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.
If you bring pots of hardy bulbs indoors during flowering, put them in a sheltered spot outside as soon as flowering is over.