The key to getting spring-flowering bulbs to flower successfully, and to re- appear and flower again, is planting at the correct depth, (see table on correct planting depths for spring bulbs) and an absence of mice or squirrels. Unfortunately, squirrels can smell the bulbs and often dig them up. If this is a problem where you are, sink some chicken wire over the bulbs to fight off the squirrels. Although failure of spring bulbs to flower is often caused by being planted too shallow, many tulips do not come again a second year and are best treated as annuals.
Besides planting the popular favourites such as Narcissus (daffodil) and Tulipa (tulip) there are many more spring-flowering bulbs to choose from including Crocus, Hyacinth, Galanthus (snowdrop) Cyclamen, Fritillaria, Iris, Muscari and Scilla. There are some images below.
When buying spring bulbs, select those which are of a good size and firm, as if you were picking onions.
September is the time for planting most spring bulbs, although Hyacinth and Tulips should be left until October or even November. There are so many spring bulbs to choose from, checkout the Pinterest pages for ideas and inspiration Tulips and also Pinterest Spring bulbs.
What about Daffodils?
In 2013-2014 the RHS undertook a Daffodil trial which is always a good starting point to check out good varieties to grow. The RHS award is best for "garden worthiness" which is being a good plant, flowering well, standing up to the rain and conditions.
Those daffodils recommended with the RHS garden merit award include: Narcissus 'Hungarian Rhapsody' beautiful pink and white; N 'Queen Beastrix' strong yellow; N. 'BreezandTristar' a split corona daffodil and in the trial each stem had up to five flowers which resulted in 124 flowering stems from 10 bulbs which sounds like good value.
Scented award winning Daffodils include 'Bridal Crown' a lovely pale colour with a strong sweet scent; N. 'Hoopoe' yellow with scented flowers; 'Actaea' white and scented and 'My Story'. I have a strong preference for scented Daffodils and grow both Bridal Crown and Actaea which are lovely.
If you are planting a display of spring bulbs, it's worth bearing in mind the varying flowering times. For example; for both Daffodils and Tulips they each have a range of flowering times including early, mid-season and late. If you want certain combinations, say pink tulips with blue forget- me- nots, you will need a late flowering Tulip. If you want a combination of say red/orange tulip with Daffodil you will need to check the exact type to ensure they will flower together.
Bulbs can also provide successive colour because of their long range of flowering from the first snowdrops in January to the last Tulip in May.
A quick rule of thumb is to plant all bulbs three times the depth of the type of bulb. This means shallower for smaller bulbs, deeper for large bulbs. For example, a snowdrop, as a tiny bulb will be planted quite shallow; a large tulip planting will be deeper around 15cms. An ordinary trowel will do the job, but if there are a lot of bulbs to be planted I find a long handled planter very useful. With each new hole dug, the plug comes out to fill the last hole and provided the soil is not too wet and claggy it works well. All Spring flowering bulbs grow well in containers when they can be planted in layers when precise depth is less important provided the bulbs are not planted too shallow.
Detailed advice and images on how to plant spring bulbs
Of all the spring bulbs, snowdrops can sometimes be tricky to get started, How to plant and grow snowdrops.