Guide to Buying and Growing Garden Bulbs

Last Updated on 23rd August 2011

Bulb Availability

Garden bulbs tend to be available during two distinct periods of the year.

Autumn Planting Bulbs are usually available from late August onwards ready for planting in the Autumn, up until the ground becomes hard, and flower from Spring onwards.

Spring Planting Bulbs and Tubers available from early spring are for planting spring onwards ready for summer displays. These mainly include Gladioli, Begonias. Dahlias, and Lilies.

Generally these will need lifting in Autumn as they are not winter hardy.

Buying Bulbs

When looking at bulbs you should find that there are 2 or 3 sizes or measurements on the description. These are the following:-

Planting Depth (PD): Although this probably isn’t an important part of the buying decision it will allow you to plant the bulbs at the correct depth in the ground.

Full Height (FH): If you are planning a display then the height of the plant may be important to you. You may want to mix Tulips of different heights to add variation, or you may simply want to place smaller plants at the front of a display and taller more prominent bulbs at the rear.

Bulb Sizes (BS): The bulb size defines the quality of the bulb. You will find that you can buy certain bulbs in bulk or value packs and also in smaller pre packs. Yet the price may vary.

This will be down to the grade of the bulb. Smaller bulbs will not produce a plant that is as strong as a larger bulb of the same type. So its worth being wary of value packs or offers where the bulb size is not specified. Planting Bulbs

It’s often the case that bulbs are just thrown into the ground with no care or planning and although this can often work there are steps that can be taken to produce much more amazing results.

Soil Quality

Before planting takes place the soil could benefit from a little attention. Heavy clay earth can be improved by digging in compost or other organic material, ideally down to around 18 inches.

All bulbs need phosphorous to aid in the development of the roots. The phosphorous needs to be mixed in the soil below the planting depth of the bulb so that the bulbs roots can get easy access. The bulbs will also benefot from a mix of Bonemeal and Superphospate.

Planting the Bulb

As previously mentioned the planting depth of the bulb is important. It may be best to use a bulb planter as many include a measure on the side to gauge the depth. Alternatively it could be quicker to loosen the ground to the correct depth over a large area and simply push the bulbs in the ground and cover with soil.

Lifting and Storing Bulbs

In general bulbs that are to be lifted to protect against frost should be done so six weeks after flowering has finished.

Bulbs and tubers should be stored in a cool but dry airy place in either a paper bag or mesh. They should not be stored in anything that will hold condensation such as a plastic bag as this will cause the bulbs to rot. Bulbs will usually benefit from a dusting of fungicide and a quick check for insects before storing.