Growing Bulbs

Given the right conditions, bulbs are happy anywhere — in window-boxes, tubs, old sinks, or naturalized in the smallest patio lawn.

Whether you are planting a window-box, tub or pot, you should remember that all bulbs need good drainage, especially if grown in tubs outdoors. They will rot quickly in waterlogged conditions, so if your container does not have drainage holes you must put a good layer of broken crocks at the bottom.

The only exception to this rule is when you are forcing bulbs indoors in bulb fibre.

Containers should be scrupulously clean. Give old pots a good scrub. If you buy new clay pots, you should soak them in a bucket of water for 24 hours, otherwise they will soak up every drop of moisture from the potting compost.Growing Bulbs

Bulbs that are to be grown permanently in a container, to flower year after year, should be planted in a soil-based potting compost. Bulb fibre, which is made up of peat, crushed oyster shell

and charcoal, has no nutrients in it; bulbs planted in bulb fibre are therefore unable to build up food reserves for the following year.

Growing bulbs outdoors Bulbs grown outdoors on a patio or balcony can give you months of cheerful colour. The majority are planted in late summer or in early autumn to flower from February to May. Plant summer-flowering bulbs in March.

Mix a little peat into your compost before you plant your bulbs, and scatter some bonemeal over it. Use 100g per square metre (4oz per square yard) and reapply every other year.

Plant your bulbs as soon as you have bought them, otherwise they will start to grow. This will weaken them and result in a poor show of flowers. Make a hole two to three times the depth of the bulb with a dibber or trowel. Do not screw the bulb down into the compost, but make certain that it is resting firmly on its base, with no air pockets underneath it.

Top the container up with more compost to level off. Check every two weeks to see if they need watering.

Growing bulbs indoors Many of the bulbs that flower outdoors in spring can be planted in bowls, left outside and then brought indoors as soon as the buds appear. The heat of a normal room will bring them into bloom.

Bulb checklist

Spring bulbs outdoors

  • Anemone blanda
  • Narcissus: all daffodil varieties. Grow some of the miniatures such as the hoop petticoat daffodil, N. bulbocodium, and N. canaliculatus ‘Jenny’.
  • Tulipa (tulips): the best for small gardens are varieties such as T. fosteriana.

For bringing indoors

For forcing

  • Tulipa
  • Hyacinthus (Hyacinth): try multi-flowered varieties.
  • Narcissus: ‘Paper White’ does not need to be plunged.

Summer bulbs

After flowering

Leave outdoor bulbs to die down naturally unless you want the container for some other plants. In this case, lift them and transfer to a spare tub filled with potting compost. Water them in and then leave them. Never remove the foliage until it has withered completely.

Remove the flowers from indoor plants as they fade, but do not remove the leaves or stalks. Continue to water and feed until all the leaves have withered, then lift the bulbs and leave them in a cool dry place to dry. You can now pull off the dead foliage and pack the bulbs away until it is time to plant them again when the right planting time comes.

Buying bulbs

You will be able to buy your bulbs in late summer or early autumn from garden centres and nurseries. Make certain you choose bulbs that feel firm and show no signs of bruising or mildew.

You can order high quality bulbs from any of the well-known bulb nurseries, whose catalogues are available from mid-August and online bulb stores. Always buy the best you can afford, as they will give the best results. Cheap offers can result in disappointment so make a note of where you buy your bulbs and record the quality of the results.

Bulbs are inexpensive, easy to grow and do not need expert care. Best of all, many of them bloom in late winter or early spring, bringing colour and fragrance when we need it most.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.