Top tips for planting bulbs

The arrival of March flags the beginnings of the headlong rush towards winter, and yes, after our miserable excuse for a summer we want to bury our heads in the sand too. But it also heralds the arrival in plant nurseries of spring bulbs, and growers' brochures online and in our letterboxes.

Phew, all that glorious colour!

It's time to pore over them, establish which ones you absolutely cannot do without, and a few you simply fancy to bits.

Many bulb varieties need a little winter holiday in a paper bag in the fridge before planting out. The cold helps them produce big flowers on long sturdy stems.

This is essential for any to be planted in pots. After chilling, plant the corms in good-quality potting mix and place the pots in a cool, shady position outside. Gradually bring the pots into the light once shoots start to appear. Best performers: daffodils, tulips and hyacinths.

Anemones: Chill in the fridge six weeks. Soak for four hours in tepid water to encourage root growth, then plant out in moist free-draining soil in full sun or light shade. Dead head, feed and water them frequently and they'll flower over several months.

Ranunculi: Chill ranunculus bulbs four weeks in the fridge, then rehydrate in lukewarm water six to eight hours. Plant out in a sunny well-drained spot 3-4cm deep.

Tulips: Chill six-eight weeks before planting out in May in well-draining soil, in a site that gets morning or late-afternoon sun. Peel off the bulb's brown outer skin, plant 10cm deep and 10cm apart, then water well.

Crocuses: For best effect mass plant bulbs in early autumn in moist free-draining soil in full sun.

Hyacinth: Chill a few weeks in the fridge to encourage strong root and flower growth. Plant out before June in a sunny site with free-draining soil at a depth of 10cm.

Freesias: Plant corms from late summer to autumn in rich, free-draining soil in full sun or light shade.

Erythronium: Dog's tooth violets, as they are commonly known, perform best in shady positions. Plant corms in autumn in humus-rich soil 5-8cm apart and 8-10cm deep.

Bluebells: Mass plant in part shade or dappled sunlight in moist humus-rich soil, 15cm apart and 10cm deep. Water regularly. Bluebells also perform well in pots.

Daffodils: Choose a spot with all-day sun and free-draining soil. Dig the ground over to boost root growth and plant late February to the end of May.

A few of our favourites:

  • Daffodil Sweet Pomonette. Strong stems on this new variety hold flowers with layers of lemon and yellow petals surrounded with white petals.
  • Hyacinth Pacific Ocean. This new variety has dark purple-violet flowers in spring, which deepen to a dramatic almost-black.
  • Tulip Angelique. Exquisite peony-like rosettes of soft pink on pink. Each stem has multiple blooms, providing masses of long-lasting, lightly fragrant blooms. Late flowering.


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