Plant bulbs now for stunning flowers in Spring

Published 24th October 2016 by Michelle

I love spring flowers. I think tulips are actually my favourite of all flowers, and I also adore delicate miniature iris, narcissi, crocus and muscari, as well as pure white paperwhites and showy hyacinths. Spring flowers are the first flowers of the year, signalling the end of the long cold winter, the beginning of new growth and lighter, longer days. I get so excited the first day in spring that I venture outside to find flowers! Plus, the varieties, particularly of tulips, are so diverse that you can have fun experimenting with different colour combinations to create amazing displays. And, last but definitely not least – bulbs are easy peasy to plant and look after. So I urge you – plant some spring bulbs now – you will be so glad you did come the spring.

How to plant spring bulbs

1\ Plant spring bulbs from September to November. Tulips generally prefer to be planted in October or November – look at the back of the bulb packet to double check the optimum timing. Buy bulbs that are firm and not mouldy.

2\ Plant the bulb with the roots facing down – usually this means the pointy end of the bulb faces up and the rounder end faces down. If in doubt, plant the bulb on its side – the stem will find its way to the surface.

3\ Plant bulbs at 3 times their depth and one bulb width apart – a lot of bulb instructions advise planting bulbs further apart than this, but tulips, iris, daffodils, crocus, narcissi, muscari and hyacinth look good with lots packed in one container, so 1 bulb width apart works well in pots.

4\ Water the bulbs well and make sure they stay well-watered, but not over-watered. Stick your finger in the soil to see if it’s dry, water if it is. In the UK unless it’s a particularly dry winter you probably won’t have to water much or even at all. So all that winter rain creates less work for you!

5\ When bulbs have finished flowering, leave the leaves to die off naturally as they will produce food to store in the bulb to allow it to flower next year. When the leaves have gone yellow/brown you can cut them back.

6\ In the first year there is no need to give bulbs fertiliser (everything they need to grow is in the bulb), but in subsequent years fertilise the bulbs after the first shoots appear in the spring, and after the bulbs have finished flowering.

Bulbs are perennials (will live for several years), although some bulbs, particularly tulips, tend to have weaker flower displays the longer it has been since the bulb was planted. I enjoy planting a few new varieties every year to add to my display and to keep it looking vibrant.

New spring bulb shoots

Varieties to try 

Here are some lovely spring bulb varieties for you to give a try – plant all these and you’ll have flowers from February to May!

Crocus Ancyrensis (Flowers February to March)

Miniature iris (Iris reticulata) (Flowers late February to March)

Narcissi tete a tete (Flowers late February to early April)

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus ‘Ziva’) (Flowers March – April)

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Pink Pearl’ (Flowers April to May)

Muscari armeniacum (Flowers April to May)

Tulips (Flower April – May)

As I said above, tulips are my favourite spring bulbs, so I’ll say a bit more on these! Some flower in April, some in May, some are short, some tall, some have delicate petals while others have giant, opulent blooms. And the range of colours is pretty much infinite; go for bold striking colours, pretty pastels or a mix of both. When planting different types of tulips in one pot, remember to look at the back of the bulb packet to check flower heights and timings – if you are visualising a stunning colour combination you might be disappointed if one flower emerges in April, only to die off before the other appears in May. Knowing the expected heights of the flowers can also help plan your display, so you don’t accidentally plant dwarf tulips in the middle of a display of tall tulips – you want all these beauties to have their chance to shine!

Tulip 'Black Parrot'

Tulip 'Green Star'

Tulip 'La Belle Epoque'

Tulip 'Virichic'

From top: Tulip 'Virichic', Tulip 'Apricot Beauty' and Tulip 'Spring Green'

Enjoying growing tulips and other spring bulbs, when your displays bloom I’d love to see pictures! Send them to me at michelle@urbanbotanics.co.uk

All the best,

Michelle x