Planting Bulbs in Spring for Summer Colour

Now that Spring is here and the soil is beginning to warm up it’s the perfect time to start getting your bulbs in the ground to ensure your garden is bursting with colour in a few short weeks’ time.

While most people will plant bulbs in the ground, those with container gardens have become huge bulb fans in recent years. They’re perfect in pots, just make sure they’ve sunlight and shelter and that the soil is free draining.

Lots of the customers who come in to us at CountryLife at this time of year are looking for begonia, gladioli and dahlia. Lillies are also big at this time of the year.

There are a wide variety of Dahlias available. Credit Katie Burnett,
Gorgeous gladioli in bloom

Planting spring bulbs

To get the best results when planting bulbs, prep your soil first. If the soil is good, just stick them in the ground –pointy end up –and off you go. If the ground is a bit heavy, dig it up a bit as bulbs don’t like sticky, heavy ground.

Bulbs like dahlia come in clumps so don’t break them up. Just place them in the ground as they come. Different bulbs are different sizes so the general rule of thumb is to place them in about 3 to 4 inches of ground. The bigger the bulb, the deeper they go.

Our guide to planting depths for different bulbs.

If you’re planting in a raised bed and it hasn’t rained in a few days, then give your area a sprinkle of water once you’ve finished planting.

Handy Tools

You can use a bulb planter to take some of the effort out of planting bulbs. The long-handled version in particular is great for saving your back some strain.

Slug protection for bulbs

Slugs feast on bulbs. We therefore recommend that once the shoots pop up from the ground that you need to be slug ready. This is typically four to six weeks after you plant –depending on the weather.Use traditional methods such as beer traps or we’d recommend environmentally-friendly products such as Sluggo.

Slug – Gone pellets are made from recycled wool and form a barrier that the slugs don’t like to move over.

At the end of the summer

Once they’ve finished flowering, that’s it for another year. You can then cut them back. Dahlia can still flower up to the first frost. It is important to cut them back before the frost hits as it will turn the flowers black and could ultimately damage the bulb and future crops. Lots of our more mature gardeners in particular tend to lift their dahlia bulbs around October, hang them in their garage or shed and re-plant them again in spring to keep them safe.

As a rule of thumb, bulbs don’t like being planted in windy or exposed sites. Begonia thrive in a bit of shade whereas gladioli like the sun. And when growing taller varieties, remember that staking is important.

Bulbs love a bit of farmyard manure to give them a start in spring. Just make sure the consistency isn’t too heavy or wet as this will cause the bulbs to simply rot in the ground.