Spring bulbs at Keukenhof gardens

How To Grow Spring Bulbs

Follow our hints and tips for a blast of colour in spring from bulbs

Planting

  • As a general rule plant 4 times deeper than the height of the bulb.
  • Plant in well-draining humus rich soil; if the soil is too wet they will rot.
  • Some are suitable for under-planting deciduous trees and shrubs.
  • Plant from October to December; leave planting tulips until November.
  • If growing in a container make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom; cover them with a piece of crock to stop them clogging with silt. Use bulb compost or John Innes No 2.
  • Plant in old plastic pots then sink into the herbaceous border where there are gaps. They can be lifted out after flowering and replaced with summer flowering bulbs.

Anemone blanda with daffodils

Anemone blanda with Daffodils

Aftercare

  • Don’t let them dry out or become waterlogged.
  • Take off the heads after flowering but leave the leaves to photosynthesise and build up the bulb for the following year.   
  • Feed with a high potash fertiliser, such as Tomorite, after flowering to encourage the formation of the flower bud for next year.
  • If the bulbs are naturalised in a lawn don’t mow the lawn until the leaves have started to die back.

Blue muscari with white narcissus

Muscari and Narcissus

Problems

  • Mice like the smaller bulbs, such as Muscari and Crocus, so you may have to protect them with chicken wire.
  • There are a number of fungal infections which affect spring bulbs; signs include yellow blotches, yellow stripes on the leaves and leaves dying back prematurely. When the bulbs are dug up they will be soft with brown patches. There is no cure and any infected bulbs must be destroyed.
  • Eel worm can be a problem with daffodils; symptoms include weak growth and yellow lumps on the leaves. Plants must be destroyed and care taken not to infect your boots.
  • Narcissus fly lays its eggs close to the foliage which then hatch and crawl down to the bulb where they will devour the inside. They often use snowdrops as a host plant. There is no remedy and infected bulbs must be destroyed. If the bulb produces grass-like foliage it will eventually make new bulbs and flower again, but this can take several years.
  • The usual slugs and snails can also decimate your bulbs so you need to take preventative measures to deter them or else go out at night with a bucket and a torch and pick them off.  

Fritillaria persica with muscari

Fritillaria persica with Muscari

Varieties

  • Some species such as snowdrops and aconites establish better if planted ‘in the green’ (already growing).
  • Add height to a spring border with Fritillaria imperialis (Crown Imperials) and Fritillaria persica.
  • Plant the small native daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus to naturalise under deciduous trees and shrubs.
  • If planting bluebells please plant the native Hyacinthoides non-scripta as they are under threat from the stronger Spanish bluebells. The natives are small and dainty with a stem shaped like a shepherd’s crook, whereas the Spanish are considerably larger with more individual florets per stem, which is thick and strong.
  • If you have a damp meadow one of the few bulbs which will thrive in these conditions is Fritillaria meleagris (Snakeshead Fritillary) which will naturalise.

For more information, hints and tips on how to enhance your outdoor living space just get in touch with our Outdoor Plant team here in store.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer so always used to producing something from the earth, whether it was animals or garden produce. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I also keep a few hens and grow vegetables for my own personal use. I gained a BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management. As a result of this I have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening.