Now that summer’s in retreat, it’s time to think about planning and planting the winter/spring garden. Spring bulb catalogues, full of temptation, appear at this time of year, and enticing bulb displays, illustrated with mouth-watering images, are found in all the garden shops. It’s enough to encourage even non-gardeners to try growing bulbs.

Whatever your favourite spring flowering bulb is, it’s time to start planning and planting! A little preparation now will result in much healthier bulbs and a gorgeous floral show.

Here are some tips to help create a fantastic display.

In a sunny location out in the garden, enrich the soil in the planting area with some Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser. It’s a rich source of organic matter that will help improve the structure of the soil, encourage earthworms and beneficial microorganisms and provide the newly planted bulbs with gentle, slow release organic nutrients to promote good early bulb growth.

Bulbs for pots

If space is limited, you can still enjoy growing some bulbs in pots. Tulips, hyacinths and miniature daffodils look wonderful in containers. If you use lightweight pots like Yates Tuscans you have the added advantage that, when the bulbs are past their best, the pots can be moved to less prominent positions where they can be allowed to die down in peace. Choose a pot or bowl with good drainage holes and fill with a quality potting mix such as Yates Premium Potting Mix. When planting bulbs in a pot, they can be grown quite close together, which helps create a lovely dense look.

Bulbs for under trees

‘Naturalising’ is the term applied when bulbs are planted under trees or in a lawn and left from one season to the next. Bluebells, freesias, sparaxis and ixias are some of the favourites that are used in this way. Flowers can be clipped off as soon as they have finished but leaves must be allowed to die down naturally. This means waiting until the leaves have turned brown before having a glorious, tidy-up mow. The after-flowering period is the time when the bulbs are building up reserves for next year, so take the opportunity to feed them as much as possible. 

Bulbs for warm areas

If you’re in an area with mild winters, you’ll need to take a bit more care when choosing your bulbs. Bulbs such as freesias, spring stars (Ipheion spp) and the species gladioli do well in warmer areas. Cold climate bulbs like tulips may flower better if given a few weeks in the fridge before planting (note, the fridge, not the freezer – freeze your bulbs and they’ll turn to mush!). These bulbs are seldom successful for a second year. Planting bulbs a little deeper than is recommended can also help their performance in warmer areas.

Bulbs that love the cold

Alliums, relatives of the edible onion, are cold lovers, as are fritillarias, hyacinths and the true snowdrops (Galanthus spp). These are all most at home in climates with hard frosts and, ideally, some snow.

Bulbs that give you the blues … and the yellows. A touch of blue always adds class to a garden and, when it comes to blue-flowering bulbs, bluebells make an obvious choice. You can also try spring stars, grape hyacinths and the tall growing Dutch iris. For warm yellow notes, plant daffodils, Soleil D’Or jonquils, yellow freesias and/or golden tulips.

Growing Tips

  • Follow the directions on the bulb pack as to how deep to plant your chosen bulbs and ensure that you plant them the right way up!
  • Water the garden bed or pot after planting to help settle the soil or potting mix around the bulbs. Potted bulbs will need regular watering to ensure they have enough moisture.
  • As soon as the first leaves emerge, you can start to feed the bulbs each week with a high potassium plant food such as Yates Thrive Flower & Fruit Soluble Fertiliser, which encourages healthy growth and helps promote future flowers.  Continue feeding until most of the leaves have died down. 
  • If you’re just starting out with bulbs and you have some space to spare, think about purchasing a ‘lucky dip’ collection that contains a selection of reliable varieties. These mixes are usually reasonably priced and allow you to discover which bulbs do best in your garden and climate. Don’t overdo it, though. Remember, these special offers can contain more than 100 bulbs – and every bulb represents a hole that must be dug!

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