How to plant bulbs for a fantastic spring display.
We have a wedding happening next spring, so I am planning to grow hyacinths and daffodils to use for the table displays. The bulbs have arrived so I spent today planting them in the garden and in pots.
Choosing the best situation for planting spring flowering bulbs in the garden
For the bulbs that are going in the garden I have chosen a site where they will receive at least 3 hours of sunlight every day. Anything less than that will result in them not flowering. But I don’t want anywhere too hot as I find the flowers pass over too quickly if they have the sun beating down on them, which can happen in spring.
How to plant bulbs
To ensure the bulbs aren’t eaten by rodents, and that they will flower, it is important to plant them to the correct depth. If this isn’t done, the bulbs will divide and produce lots of small bulbs that won’t flower. A general rule of thumb is plant any bulb to a depth 3 times the size of the bulb. For hyacinths this is usually about 4 inches deep. Space them so they are about 3 inches apart.
The best soil for bulbs
Both daffodils and hyacinths, (and generally most bulbs) like moist, but free draining soil. This combination enables a good root system to develop, while ensuring that the bulbs don’t rot away. If your soil is heavy clay, dig over the area and add compost or manure to the soil. This will improve structure and help to hold the moisture in the soil. Then put some horticultural grit in the base of each of the holes to improve drainage. If you are planting lots of bulbs, it may be easier to dig a trench first and line that with grit.
Adding fertiliser to the soil
When planting your bulbs, it is good to add a fertiliser to the soil beneath the bulbs as it will be the one time you can get the food to the correct place ready for when the roots grow down into the soil. It is best to use a granular fertiliser which can be mixed with the soil. The fertiliser can be either organic or non-organic, depending on your gardening preference. Scatter this at the bottom of the planting hole, then cover it with some unadulterated soil, before adding the grit. This will stop the fertiliser being in direct contact with the bulb, which could result in the roots being burnt.
So now just make sure the bulbs are planted with the pointy bit sticking up and the broader part of the bulb sitting on the soil/grit. Cover them with the soil, and water them to help the roots get established, and to allow the soil to settle around the roots.
Planting bulbs in pots
There are several advantages to planting bulbs in pots.
- You can ensure the drainage is good by adding polystyrene or broken bits of pots to the bottom of the pots before you put the compost in.
- By choosing the correct compost you will have the right nutrients for the bulbs. For a short term display use 3 parts multi-purpose compost to 1 part grit. If you want a longer term display use 3 parts John Innes No 2 compost and 1 part grit.
- The pots can be moved to ensure they get the best growing conditions.
- Bulbs don’t make a big demand on their environment because they are amazing little units that store their food in a modified stem and leaves for following years. So they can be packed together in a pot to give a stunning display of flowers.
- The above characteristic means that bulbs can adapt to challenging conditions. Many gardeners take advantage of this by forcing bulbs to flower at times that suit the grower, rather than waiting for nature to take its course.
Choosing the right pot.
I am growing blue hyacinths and white daffodils so I have chosen a blue pot to complement this colour scheme. If I had been growing the bulbs for display I would have used a fluted square ceramic pot as I feel this shaped pot would have enhance the elegant nature of white daffodils. For the smaller yellow tete a tete with their jovial, sunny appearance, I would probably have chosen a fun round pot to reflect their character.
Planting depth and distance for bulbs in pots
I am going to layer my bulbs as I want as many bulbs in the pot as possible. Firstly, I have put some old crocks in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage and then added about 4 inches (10cms) of multipurpose compost and grit. The hyacinth bulbs were planted first as they are bigger than the daffodil bulbs. I made sure they weren’t touching the sides of the pot or each other before covering them with a layer of compost. The daffodil bulbs were then planted. These were arranged in such a way so the hyacinth bulbs beneath would be able to send their growing shoots up between the bulbs.
I could, if I had wanted, put another layer of smaller bulbs, for example tulips or Muscari, into the pot, but as I want to grow these flowers for picking, rather than a high impact display, I will stick with just the two layers. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Have fun and plant up your pots and garden with lots of bulbs for a fantastic spring display.