How to Plant Bulbs for a Super Spring Garden

Bulb-tastic times

 It’s now bulb time. There’s no point whinging and whining that your garden looks drab in spring - act now and ensure a spectacle of colour next year. So stop procrastinating and get planting your bulbs now. 

What are bulbs?

spring bulbs sitting on a potting benchBulbs are storage organs that contain all the leaves and flower buds of next year's plants.  All are currently dormant.

Just add water, eventually some light and something for the roots to get hold of and - bingo - flower displays to woo the crowds. 

Autumn bulb planting

daffodils pushing through light snow on soilPlanted now, in autumn and into early winter, enables the very first roots to peep out into what will be warm and moist soil. If it turns bone-chillingly cold, everything stops but this is a signal to the bulbs that  ‘Hey, it’s winter, and we all know what comes what comes next. Spring!’. Then in February and March the bulbs get into top gear and push out leaves and flowers. Gardening doesn't have to be difficult. 

Choosing quality bulbs

close up of a garden bulbGo to your local garden centre and have a squeeze. Inspect bulbs to ensure you only buy solid, healthy specimens. A quick finger thumb squeeze ensures you aren’t planting diseased, rotting specimens. Visually they need to be free from blue or green fungus. 

Nor should the bulbs be bursting into growth - this is an indication that they have been stored in warm and possibly damp conditions. 

Get in early to have the best choice of varieties and the best quality. 

Wear gloves (should be supplied by the retailer) when handing hyacinths as scales on the bulbs can cause irritation. 

What to choose

Plan displays so they provide colour and interest for weeks of the year. A breathtaking display is easy to produce for three weeks of the spring but a good seven weeks of colour is easily achievable with planning. Read up on the varieties on offer. 

Top tip

hand held bulb planter with measurementsIf a bulb measures 4cm from tip to base, it will need a hole 12 cm deep. A muscari bulb is smaller, perhaps 2cm tip to base, and that needs a planting hole 6cm deep. So, if eg a daffodil bulb is 5cm from tip to base, how deep should the planting hole be? Correct: 15cm.

Your three times table is important in gardening. But this is a loose kind of arrangement - there is a science to gardening but sometimes who cares about a centimetre or two? Plant deeper if you have a choice though - this helps flowering. 

You can buy bulb planters, long and short handled, with measurements conveniently marked on the tool. Or just use your trowel and judgement - it's up to you!

Bulb-Lasagne time

Want flowers throughout spring and all from one container?  It’s a case of nuzzle, nestle and nudge. Obviously!

purple crocuses

  • Grab yourself a 12 inch diameter pot (or bigger eg a sawn off wooden barrel)
  • Ensure the base has drainage holes
  • Fill the base with a 6cm layer of layer of multi purpose compost. 
  • Nuzzle daffodil bulbs into the surface of this compost. 

daffodils bright yellow
  • Cover with a 10cm layer of compost. 
  • Nestle a layer of tulip bulbs onto the surface.
  • Cover with more compost. 
  • Nudge aside small divots in the compost and plant crocus bulbs into the compost. 

orange tulips
  • Add compost for around 6cm. 
  • The compost should be a few centimetres below the rim of the container. 
  • Place in a prominent place in the garden, in the sun. 
  • Stand back.
  • Wait. 

What will happen is that the crocus will flower first, in early spring or late winter, and as they fade the daffodils will burst into bloom. Later in spring, the tulips will appear.

Layers of bulbs, weeks of interest and all from one pot. 


If you have any great bulb tips to share or any questions, pop them in the comments below! Happy Bulb Planting!