Want a glorious spring garden, vibrant summer colours or some winter wonders? Whatever the season, bulb planting is an easy way to liven up your borders. Requiring minimal effort, this simple garden task can elevate your outdoor space and make even the most novice of gardeners feel like green-fingered wizards. Here, we take a look at what to plant and when, so that your garden is filled with flowers all year round.
The benefits of bulbs
Not only are bulbs easy to grow, they’re also quite forgiving if you happen to miss the perfect window for their planting season - as long as they haven’t rotted, you can usually get away with planting them even if they’ve started to sprout. Generally, bulbs are a fairly inexpensive way to add some interest to your garden, and the results can be very rewarding - head to many significant properties such as castles, stately homes and National Trust landmarks and you’ll find their gardens adorned with flower displays created by mixing and matching bulbs.
Many people associate bulbs with spring, but they can be planted in all seasons - that golden carpet of daffodils needs planning and planting in autumn, and if you want some festive flowers in the garden come Christmas, you’ll want to be bedding in those bulbs in the springtime. Just when you thought you might get a break from the gardening tasks, along come the bulbs to keep you busy…
Spring flowering bulbs
Daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, bluebells and alliums are just some of the spring flowering bulbs you can plant to really bring your garden to life in the early months of the year.
Autumn is the season you’ll want to get them planted - daffodils, crocus and hyacinths are all best planted in early autumn, so aim for September, while tulips can be left a little later and are best planted in November.
Summer flowering bulbs
Begonias, freesias, dahlias, crocosmias and gladioli are bulbs to look out for if you want bursts of colour in your borders in the summer months. Some bulbs, especially if they’re hardy flowering, will be best planted in September or October, whereas the likes of gladioli can be left until early spring to be planted.
Autumn flowering bulbs
In autumn, the focus can often be on the changing colours of the trees, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add some colour to the ground, too. Cyclamen, nerines, sternbergias, autumn crocuses and colchicums will all add some floral decoration to your borders and bring with them a mix of colours to break up the reds, browns and golden hues typically associated with this season. Most autumn flowering bulbs will need to be planted by late summer to get the most of the warmth and sun.
Winter flowering bulbs
The bleak midwinter needn’t apply here - even in colder temperatures, your garden can sport pops of floral brightness. Winter cyclamen, snowdrops and aconite will all bring your garden to life in the winter months, while there are also plenty of bulbs that can be ‘forced’ in winter too if you choose to grow them indoors.
Planting your bulbs
Where, when and how to plant your bulbs does depend on the individual flower (some are much fussier than others!) but as general guidance, most bulbs can be planted in the garden in sunny areas with good drainage. If you live in an area where soil drainage is an issue, then you might want to consider giving your plants a helping hand by adding a planting mix to aid drainage.
If you’re planting in borders, group your bulbs together in multiples of around six. Aim to plant each bulb at the bottom of a hole two to three times the height of the bulb, and plant with the shoot facing upwards. In the spring and summer you’ll want to water the ground after planting, but if you’re planting in autumn then the ground is likely moist enough not to need watering.
You can also plant your bulbs into containers rather than directly in the ground, although they’ll need a little more TLC, such as adding a grit mix, and using a high potassium fertiliser to ensure they really thrive.