Spring Bulbs

Now that summer’s in retreat, it’s time to think about planning and planting the winter/spring garden.

Seductive spring bulb catalogues are appearing, and enticing bulb displays with mouth-watering images are in the garden shops. If you haven't tried growing bulbs yet, give in to temptation and give it a go!

Whatever your favourite spring-flowering bulb is, it’s time to start planning and planting! A little preparation now will result in much healthier bulbs and a gorgeous floral show.

Technically, what gardeners refer to as 'bulbs' are a diverse group of bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes, but we'll continue to refer to them as bulbs for simplicity.

Choose a sunny and well-drained location out in the garden. Enrich the soil in the planting area with some Yates Dynamic Lifter Organic Plant Food. It’s a gentle source of organic matter that helps improve the structure of the soil, encourages earthworms and beneficial microorganisms and provides the newly planted bulbs with slow-release organic nutrients to promote good bulb growth early on.

Bulbs for pots

If space is limited, you can still enjoy growing some bulbs in pots. Tulips, freesias, hyacinths and miniature daffodils look wonderful in containers. If you use lightweight pots, you have the added advantage that, when the bulbs are past their best, the pots can be moved to less prominent positions where they can be allowed to die down in peace. Choose a pot or bowl with good drainage holes and fill with a quality potting mix such as Yates Premium Potting Mix. When planting bulbs in a pot, they can be grown quite close together, which helps create a lovely dense look.

Bulbs for under trees

‘Naturalising’ is the term applied when bulbs are planted under trees or in a lawn, then left from one season to the next. Bluebells, freesias, sparaxis (harlequins) and ixias are favourites for this purpose. Flowers can be clipped off as soon as they've finished, but leaves must be allowed to die down naturally. This means patiently waiting until the leaves have turned brown before having an exhilarating tidy-up mow. The after-flowering period is when the bulbs are building up reserves for next year, so take the opportunity to feed them as much as possible. 

Bulbs for warm areas

If you’re in an area with mild winters, you’ll need to take a bit more care when choosing your bulbs. Bulbs such as freesias, spring stars (Ipheion spp.), sparaxis and the species gladioli do well in warmer areas. Cold climate bulbs like tulips may flower better if given a few weeks in the fridge before planting (definitely the fridge, not the freezer – freeze your bulbs and they’ll turn to mush!). These bulbs usually aren't successful for a second year. Planting bulbs a little deeper than recommended can also help their performance in warmer areas.

Bulbs that love the cold

Alliums, relatives of the edible onion, are cold lovers, as are fritillarias, hyacinths and the true snowdrops (Galanthus spp.). These are all at home in climates with hard frosts and, ideally, some snow cover.

Colour choices

A touch of blue always adds class to a garden and, when it comes to blue-flowering bulbs, bluebells are the go-to choice. You can also try spring stars, grape hyacinths (sternbergia) and the tall growing Dutch iris.

For warm yellow notes, plant daffodils, Soleil D’Or jonquils, yellow freesias and/or golden tulips.

Step by step guide to planting bulbs

Step 1 – Keep your new bulbs cool

  • Bulbs prefer cool soil so if the weather isn’t cool enough (under 23 degrees), we recommend storing your bulbs in your fridge in an egg carton or paper bag. Don’t store your bulbs in a plastic bag, this will make them sweat and start to rot.
  • Keep them separate from other fresh food in your fridge, as the gases released by some foods can ruin the bulbs.
  • If you’re growing tulips, daffodils or hyacinth they'll definitely need to be refrigerated (no longer than 6 weeks).

Step 2 – Finding the perfect spot to plant your bulbs

  • Bulbs are generally happy in spots that give them full or part sun. We always recommend reading the packet instructions though, just to be 100% sure.
  • You can also try planting hyacinths in a shallow bowl for a focused display. These can look quite spectacular.

Step 3 – Preparing soil for planting

  • Once you have your perfect spot, you'll need to prepare your soil to ensure your plants get the best nutrition. Clear all weeds, rocks and debris, then dig the soil over until it’s fine and crumbly. You can use Yates Black Magic Seed Raising Mix which is ideal for growing new plants, then add a handful of Yates Thrive Naturals Blood & Bone to the bottom of the hole for an additional nutrient boost.

Growing Tips

  • Follow the directions on the bulb pack on how deep to plant your chosen bulbs and make sure that you plant them the right way up! The rule of thumb is to measure the height of the bulb, then multiply it by 3 to give you your planting depth.
  • Ensure the soil is free-draining, as bulbs tend to rot in soggy soil. 
  • Water the garden bed or pot after planting to help settle the soil (or potting mix) around the bulbs. Potted bulbs need regular watering to make sure they have enough moisture.
  • As soon as the first leaves emerge, you can start to feed a high potassium plant food, like Yates Thrive Rose & Flower Granular Plant Food. This encourages healthy growth and helps promote future flowers.  Continue feeding until most of the leaves have died down. 
  • If you’re just starting out with bulbs and you have some space to spare, think about purchasing a ‘lucky dip’ collection that contains a selection of reliable varieties. These mixes are usually reasonably priced and allow you to discover which bulbs do best in your garden and climate. Don’t go nuts though! These special offers can contain more than 100 bulbs – and every bulb represents a hole that needs to be dug!

Related products

Yates Premium Potting Mix

A premium potting mix, ideal for all potted plants and shrubs, including ornamentals, fruit trees, vegies and herbs.

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