Spring Flowering Bulbs
Spring flowering bulbs
Spring flowering bulbs are easy to grow and make a welcome appearance after the winter.
The key to getting spring flowering bulbs to flower successfully, year after year, is to plant them to the correct depth, (see table on correct planting depths for spring bulbs) and little else is required, except an absence of too many mice or squirrels. A lack of flowers is often caused by being planted too shallow.
Popular favourites for spring planting are Narcissus (daffodil) and Tulipa (tulip) but there are many more to chose from including Crocus, Hyacinth, Galanthus (snowdrop) Cyclamen, Fritillaria, Iris, Muscari and Scilla.
Below are some images of spring bulbs which flower at different times in the Spring. When buying bulbs choose those which are of a good size and firm, a bit like selecting onions.
September is the time for planting most spring bulbs although Hyacinth and Tulips should be left to October or even November. There are so many to choose and inspiring images can be found by checking out Tulips and also Pinterest Spring bulbs which has some great ideas.
What about Daffodils? In 2013-2014 the RHS undertook a Daffodil trial and it is always a good starting point to check out the varieties the RHS recommend as best for "garden worthiness" which is being a good plant, flowering well, standing up to the rain and conditions. Those recommended with the RHS garden merit award included: Narcissus 'Hungarian Rhapsody' beautiful pink and white; N 'QueentBeastrix' 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 included 'Bridal Crown' a lovely pale colour with strong sweet scent; N. 'Hoopoe' yellow with scented flowers; 'Actaea' white and scented and 'My Story' illustrated centre image and very scented.
If you are planting for a display its worth bearing in mind the varying flowering times, for example; both Daffodils and Tulips flower at different times including early, mid season and late. If you want certain combinations, say pink tulips with 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 snow drops in January to the last Tulip in May.To plant, simply dig a small hole and plant with the flatter end down.
The important part is planting depth: a quick rule of thumb and guide is to plant the bulb three times the depth of the type of bulb. This means shallow for small bulbs, deeper for large bulbs. For example, a snow drop, which is 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. It is easier if you are planting lots of spring bulbs and 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.
Of all the spring bulbs snowdrops can sometimes be tricky to get started, How to plant and grow snowdrops.
Caring for spring bulbs FAQ
Should I dead head bulbs?
Dead heading bulbs after flowering, that is removing the spent flower heads, directs the plant's energies back into the bulb to make next year's bulb. It is a good idea to dead head daffodils for this reason but not all spring bulbs, see below. Remove only the flower head and no more.
Can I remove the old foliage after flowering?
The spent foliage on daffodils can look messy, but should not be removed, or knotted, as the foliage is needed to make a good bulb for the following year. The RHS recommend 6 weeks between flowering and foliage removal for daffodils and other spring bulbs. Other bulbs such as Fritillaria meleagris (snake's head fritillary) and Galanthus (snowdrop) which will self seed are best not dead headed to allow the seeds to form and be distributed.
Should I feed spring flowering bulbs?
Yes, but not when they are in flower; earlier when the shoots first appear. If growing bulbs in containers include slow release fertiliser in the potting medium.
Why didn't my bulbs flower?
This happens sometimes and its disappointing not to get the spring show you were expecting. This can occur for several reasons more information about why bulbs don't flower
Planting snowdrops 'in the green'
Some bulbs can be more difficult to establish, such as snowdrops, Galanthus and an easier (although more expensive method) is to plant them 'in the green' which means to buy and plant snowdrops in flower, or just after flowering. If planted this way snowdrops should be purchased and transplanted as quickly as possible, watered well and if they show signs of distress, wilting, remove some of the foliage. Planting this way can be as good an alternative to buying bulbs in the Autumn. More information about planting and growing Snowdrops.
Scented Narcissus are amongst the loveliest of fragrant spring bulbs.
Fritillaria meleagris the snakes head fritallaria looks beautiful naturalised in grass and will grow in damp conditions.
Erythronium this is den canis known as dog tooth violet very delicate and pretty lovely on a grassy bank.
Hyacinths a long lasting and highly scented flowering bulb
Snowdrops latin name Galanthus is the very earliest of the spring bulbs.
Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta is the English bluebell look at their best planted on mass in woodland setting. One word of warning is that they can be invasive and plant with care.