Planting Bulbs in the Spring: The Definite Guide

Bulbs are an asset to both containers and borders, particularly in the spring when popular flowers such as daffodils, tulips, and snowdrops blossom. These are some of the easiest and most rewarding plants to grow in the garden.

The benefits of bulbs

Bulbs are the perfect option to invest in when it comes to adding colour to spring borders.

Tulips come in an array shades, including everything from rich purples to bright white hues. One of their main attractions?

They’re able to bloom at a time of year when many plants offer only dull colours.

In fact, the likes of snowdrops and scillas are some of the earliest flowering plants in existence, offering an abundance of hot hues, guaranteed to brighten up the outdoor space, even when the days are short.

When to plant bulbs

For best results, plant summer-flowering bulbs, including the likes of gladioli, in early spring.

Where to plant bulbs

Certain bulbs require specific siting, while hardy bulbs, including both tulips and daffodils, necessitate a warm, sunny environment, complete with good drainage. This is because they’re native to dry summer climates.

Bulbs from cool, moist, woodland climates on the other hand, including the likes of Cardiocrinum, require similar garden conditions. You can improve light and sandy soils by adding garden compost, and heavy soils by adding compost and grit.

How to plant bulbs

The majority of bulbs are planted when dry. They should be in a leafless, dormant, and rootless state. It’s important to plant them as soon as possible for the best results. If not, it’s likely they’ll offer a poor show of flowers. This is particularly the case if they’ve been kept in storage for a while.

Planting bulbs in borders

For best results, plant bulbs in groups of at least six. The more bulbs gathered together, the better the exhibition. To create an impressive showcase, plant between 25 and 50 bulbs. You will however require a large space in order to achieve this number.

The planting method for spring bulbs also applies to summer and autumn flowering bulbs. Begin by choosing a location. Dig a hole that is both wide and deep enough to house your bulbs and plant the bulbs at two to three times their depth.

For example, a bulb that is 5cm in height should sit in a hole that is between 10cm and 15cm. When placing the bulbs in the soil, make sure the shoot or ‘nose’ is facing upwards, with a distance measuring twice the bulbs width between them.

The next stage requires you to replace the soil removed from the hole and press it down firmly without damaging the bulbs. You can use the back of a rake to do this.

Only water the bulbs after planting if the ground is extremely dry. If it is moist to touch, then it will not be necessary.

Growing bulbs in containers

Most bulbs can be grown in containers, particularly those with large, impressive flowers, including the likes of lilies, tulips, alliums, and arum lilies. To ensure success when planting bulbs in containers, especially those that are only going to spend one season in a plant pot, opt for a mix of three parts multi-purpose compost and one part grit.

For long-term container displays, on the other hand, choose three parts John Innes number two compost combined with one part grit.

Once planted, water the bulbs once. For best results and to encourage growth, water regularly when in active growth, reducing this throughout the dormant season.

To endorse good flowering the following year, use a high-potassium fertilizer and feed the bulbs every seven to ten days. The likes of a liquid tomato feed work well. You should begin this process as soon as shoots begin to show, and cease feeding when the foliage begins to die down. This is usually at the end of the season.

Problems that can occur

While the bulbs are beginning to establish themselves, you may wish to check for rotting bulbs, removing any that are soft. But asides from this, bulbs are almost maintenance-free and extremely easy to grow.

Pests and diseases to watch out for

Pests to watch out for include snails, slugs, and squirrels (these predominantly affect tulips and crocus).  Diseases that affect bulbs include grey mould (which is common with snowdrops) daffodil viruses, tulip fire, narcissus basal rot, and tulip viruses.

Missed planting your bulbs at the right time?

If you’ve missed planting bulbs in the spring, due to being away or quite simply forgetting, it’s important to place them in the ground as soon as possible!

Avoid waiting until the autumn, as they will deteriorate even further. A few may appear a little soft and some may be rotten – if this is the case, remove these from your selection before planting. Certain bulbs will last longer than others, including tulips. For best results, team with potted bulbs from the garden center and apply a well-balanced fertilizer as this will help them to recover.

Bulb varieties

There are a number of bulb variants to choose from, including daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, hyacinth, tulip, lily, onions, and copper tips to name but a few. These are some of the most popular variants and all boast an array of hot hues, in the shape of yellows, purples, lilacs, reds, pinks, and orange shades.

Planted alone these will create a great focal point, and when planted alongside one and other, they provide a multitude of vibrant colours!

Something different…

If you’re looking for something different, the Eranthis Hyemalis ‘Orange Glow’ bulb is a must! This extremely rare variant is native to Copenhagen.

This particular species self-seeds and is able to produce offsets extremely easily! All that it requires is winter sunshine. It doesn’t, however, enjoy the heat. For best results place under a canopy of trees or in a shaded area.

If you’re planning to plant your bulbs this spring we’d love to hear how you get on and to share any other tips you have with our readers. Get in touch to reveal your beautiful outdoor spaces.


Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.

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