Bulb planting tips!

planting bulbs, design with bulbs, garden design, tim austen, garden designer

The planting period for spring-flowering bulbs in Ireland and the UK extends from the start of September until early December but Daffoldils should be planted by mid-season.  Autumn flowering bulbs, such as, crocus and colchicum should be planted in August and most summer-flowering bulbs should be planted in March and April with the exception of Lilies which are planted in November and December.

The main thing to look out for when planting bulbs is that you purchase good-sized, healthy bulbs that are firm to the touch.  Then plant as soon as possible in to well-drained soil.

Bulbs should be planted the right way up!  This means with the growing points (old roots)  facing down in to the soil and often with the pointy end facing up.   Planting depths will vary according to the type of bulb and its size but as a general rule-of-thumb plant 2-3 times the depth of the actual bulb and deeper if the soil is light or if it is a plant with a long stem.  Bulbs will end up several inches below the ground surface.  Most suppliers give very good planting instructions for individual types of bulb in any case so don’t worry about this too much.

Planting can be carried out using a dibber for small bulbs and a spade for larger bulbs.  For large quantities of bulbs you can strip or scarify areas of ground, lay out the bulbs and then cap over with topsoil and/or turf to achieve the required depth.  However, in all cases, ensure there are no air pockets between the bulb and the soil underneath and this can be done with reasonably firm tamping.  You may be advised to add a layer of grit at the base of the planting hole to improve the drainage for some bulbs, such as Lilies.

bulb plantign tips, planting design, tim austen, garden design

Naturalised bulbs under trees

In terms of spacing, for formalised and group planting allow three to five times the width of the bulb between plants and arrange in whatever pattern you desire.  The spacing allows for growth room as the bulbs will self-propagate.  Clumps of the same type look particularly effective in borders.   However, the best effects are often created with naturalised drifts and informal groups in woodland and meadow areas.  This is the best fun as bulbs are scattered randomly and planted where they fall.  For planting in rough grass, ensure that the foliage has died back before you cut the grass, this will  be around mid-June.  Do not cut before as you may reduce the vigour the following year.

Fianlly, do not water in the dormant season unless the soil is very dry but ensure bulbs are kept well-watered during the  growing  season if the weather is droughty.

I have found wonderful detailed advice in:

‘Annuals, Bulbs and Perrenials’ by Richard Bird and Kathy Brown, Lorenz books, 2005.  I also refer to information supplied by bulb suppliers Heritage Bulbs of Ireland.

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