If you’d like to add some colour to your garden for relatively little effort and cost, planting bulbs is a great idea.
I love growing flowers from bulbs. You can create a really colourful display at times of the year when the rest of the garden is still playing catch up, and there’s such a wide variety to choose from. Bulbs are also relatively cheap when compared to buying plants, so they’re a great way to create real wow factor in your garden without spending a fortune.
If you’d like to add some flower bulbs to your garden, here’s a step-by-step guide to planting bulbs. I’ve included tips on when to plant bulbs, how to choose the best bulbs to plant, instructions on how to plant bulbs for the best results, plus some ideas for growing bulbs in pots and containers.
When to plant flower bulbs
It’s important to plant bulbs at the right time of year, and this varies according to the variety you choose. Here are a few popular choices of bulbs for planting at different times of the year.
Bulbs to plant in spring: tender summer bulbs that flower in the warmest months, such as gladioli and dahlias, need to be planted in spring.
Bulbs to plant in summer: bulbs that flower in autumn, such as nerine lilies and autumn flowering crocus, should be planted in summer.
Bulbs to plant in fall or autumn: spring flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, iris, hyacinths, tulips, fritillarias and crocus, are planted in autumn. This is also the right time to plant hardy bulbs that flower in summer such as crocosmia, alliums and lilies.
How to choose the best flower bulbs
There’s so much choice when it comes to flower bulbs. Garden centres stock a wide range, you’ll also find them on sale *online and in supermarkets and DIY stores.
Once you’ve picked your variety, have a good look at the actual bulbs in the packet. You’re looking for bulbs that are firm and robust; avoid anything that is soft or mouldy. I always liken it to choosing a good head of garlic!
Bulb planting: how to get it right
Planting a bulb isn’t difficult, but there are a few things you need to get right to give your flower bulbs the best chance of thriving and producing a lovely display. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, check out these step-by-step instructions on bulb planting before you start.
The best tools for planting bulbs
To plant bulbs, you will need the following tools:
- A *hand trowel or *bulb planting tool (more about that second option later)
- *Plant markers
- *Gardening gloves
You might also need a rake if your soil is uneven.
Prepare the ground
When you’re ready to start planting bulbs, the first thing you need to do is prepare your soil.
Use your hand trowel or a fork to get rid of any weeds, and loosen up the surface of the ground.
Ideally you should also add some *compost before planting your bulbs, to give them plenty of nutrients as they form their flowers.
Which way do you plant flower bulbs?
Ideally bulbs need to be planted with the growing tip pointing upwards, but it’s not always easy to work this out! If in doubt, plant the bulb on its side and the stem will still grow upwards.
How deep to plant bulbs
Planting depth varies according to the type of bulb, so check the packet instructions before you start. Generally speaking, the hole should be about two to three times as deep as the bulb itself.
Once your hole is ready, all you need to do is pop your bulb in, and cover it back up with soil.
I think bulbs look really nice when they’re planted in clusters, but try not to get too regimented with your spacing. One way to make them look natural is to literally throw a handful onto the soil, and plant them where they fall.
A bulb planting tool takes the strain out of the job!
If you’re planting lots of bulbs, it can get pretty laborious digging hole after hole. This is where a *bulb planting tool can be a lifesaver.
These clever little gadgets remove a clump of soil as you push them into the ground. Once you’ve done this, you just pop your bulb in the hole, and squeeze the handle to release the soil back on top. They’re not very expensive and save so much time.
Add a plant marker
Given that they won’t be poking through the soil for a while, it’s really easy to forget where you planted your bulbs. Popping a plant marker in the soil to remind you where your planted bulbs are will stop you accidentally dig them up later.
How to plant bulbs in pots
You don’t have to plant bulbs in the ground; they’re brilliant for creating a container display too. I really like making a bulb lasagne, this is a clever way of planting bulbs in pots in layers to create a display of flowers that lasts for months. It’s also a lovely gardening project for kids; I’ve included it in my book *A Year of Nature Craft and Play, which has lots of fun garden and nature-based activities for kids to try.
It’s easy to grow bulbs in your lawn too; crocus are great for this. You need to remove a piece of turf, plant the bulb, then put the turf back on top. A bulb planter is definitely a good option for larger bulbs here, but a hand trowel is great for most sizes of bulb. This video shows you how to plant a bulb in grass:
You can also ‘force’ spring bulbs to flower earlier than they would normally. This is a lovely way to enjoy a few blooms indoors, and it’s really easy to do. Check out my post on forcing bulbs for full instructions.
I hope this quick guide on how to plant bulbs has inspired you to get out there and do some planting. Will you be planting bulbs this season?
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