Planting Bulbs: Farmer Gracy shows you how!

Autumn Planting Bulbs (Flowering in Spring)

Bulbs look so magnificent when they’re in flower that most people think there must be some kind of art to growing them. Relax. It’s not difficult at all. The difficult part happened in preceding seasons when your bulbs were nurtured to reach perfection on the farm. Now you just have to follow these easy instructions to get the full benefit of all the hard work that’s already been done.

1) Plant your bulbs in autumn

It’s easy to remember. As you see the signs of autumn beginning to appear, you know the time is right. The winter conditions will tell your bulbs that they need to get ready for that explosion of blooms in springtime.

You don’t want to wait until temperatures have reached freezing. We generally dispatch our bulbs at the right planting time, so when they arrive, you know you don’t need to wait.

If you absolutely have to put off planting for a few weeks, keep the bulbs in a cool, dry place. If you’re growing Tulips, Crocuses, Muscari, Hyacinths, Scilla or snowdrops, you can store them in the fridge, especially if you live in an area with a mild to warm climate.

2) Before you plant

If you haven’t done so already, decide where your bulbs will grow. Most of them will prefer sun or very light shade, but do check their preferred growing conditions. With a few exceptions, most of them will prefer a spot where the soil drains well. “Wet feet” are a no-no for most of them.

If you have rich, loamy soil, it shouldn’t require much preparation other than digging it over to loosen it up, but some well-matured compost dug in at a rate of about one spade of compost to every three spades of soil seldom goes amiss.

You also don’t want to plant bulbs on top of rocks or large stones, so while you’re digging over, haul out any debris you find.

3) Plant your bulbs correctly

Your bulbs will arrive with planting instructions that tell you how deeply they should be planted and how far apart they ought to be spaced. A stick or a piece of string can be marked with these measurements to help you as you plant.

Most bulbs look a bit like onions in that they have a point at the top that shows you where the leaves will emerge from. But some bulbs have odd shapes. If you’re not sure which side is “sunny side up”, plant them on their sides. They’ll find their own way thanks to hormones that tell them which way gravity is working.

Now cover your bulbs. Press the soil down lightly over them. Don’t press too hard! You just want a nice firm covering. Give them their first watering, and if rain or snow is enough to keep the soil moist, that will be all they need.

4) Early Spring aftercare

Most bulbs don’t really need feeding, but if you want them to last for several years, they’ll benefit from a light feed with slow-release or organic fertilizer in the early spring.

If you want your bulbs to last, you should cut off dead flowers, removing the whole flower stem, but don’t cut off the leaves until the nutrients they produce have been moved to the bulb and stored there. How will you know? The leaves will turn yellow and start dying as their function is fulfilled.

5) Get the most out of your bulbs with tried and tested design basics

Long rows one bulb wide don’t work well. Nor do isolated bulbs dotted around your flower beds. To get maximum impact from mixed plantings, create clusters of about seven bulbs or even more. That helps your flowering beauties to really get the attention they deserve!

Don’t forget final flowering height at planting time! You don’t want shorter-stemmed blooms to be hidden away behind taller plants.

Create an understory. You’ve probably seen the lovely pictures of short and tall bulb combos using fabulous fillers like Grape Hyacinths. You can even plant the smaller bulbs more-or-less on top of the bigger ones to get a really dense effect.

Here’s a choice that’s up to you. Let’s say you are planting early, mid and late spring varieties to keep the colour display going. Either allow them to light up one area of your garden at a time, or create ‘islands’ of colour with clusters of bulbs that flower at different times.


Tulip Bulbs planting instructions

Your tulip bulbs have been groomed for years by expert growers to give you their very best. A few basics ensure gardening success. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil and prepare your bed with plenty of added compost (about one spade of compost for every three spades of soil).  Now it’s time to get planting and make magic happen!

  • Plant from the middle of autumn to late Autumn;
  • Plant bulbs two to three times as deep as the bulb is high (about 20cm);
  • Space bulbs about twice the bulb diameter apart;
  • Place them with the pointed side facing upwards;
  • Cover with soil and water well. Apply mulch (optional).


Narcissus Bulbs planting instructions

Narcissi are among the easiest bulbs to grow, but a little common-sense gardening will get them off to a great start. Pick a sunny or lightly shaded area with freely draining soil. Adding compost helps to improve drainage, so dig in about one spade of compost to every three spades of soil. You’re ready to begin planting your bulbs!

  • Plant your Narcissus bulbs in Autumn, no later than September;
  • Plant them twice as deep as the bulb is high;
  • Ideal spacing depends on cultivar;
  • Plant them with the point side facing upwards;
  • Cover with soil and water well. Apply mulch (optional).


Hyacinth Bulbs planting instructions

The Dutch growers who got your bulb to peak flowering size have taken care to give you bulbs that are ready to produce their best flowers. All they need from you is a sunny or lightly shaded position and well-drained soil. Improve your soil with lots of well-rotted compost or choose a freely draining potting medium.

  • Plant your Hyacinth bulbs in early Autumn for Spring flowers or force indoors for early blooms;
  • Cover the top of the bulb to about 10cm;
  • Space them around 7.5cm apart;
  • The pointy end of the bulb must face upwards;
  • Water well after planting and mulch.


Crocus Bulbs planting instructions

When you plant Crocuses, there is a very good chance that you will be enjoying them for many years, so choose the perfect spot to get the most out of your bulbs. The position should be sunny, or only have light shade, and the soil should be well-drained. Compost helps to improve drainage in clay soil and helps sandy soils to retain the moisture your bulbs will need.

  • Crocus bulbs need Winter chill to bloom. Plant them in Autumn;
  • Plant crocus bulbs about 7cm deep;
  • Space them 5-7cm apart;
  • Make sure that the pointed end faces upwards;
  • Water well, and provide a light layer of mulch (optional).


Fritillary Bulbs planting instructions

Like most bulbs, Fritillaries like a well-drained, well-composted soil and a sunny or lightly shaded position, but Snakes Heads don’t mind wet conditions. Grouping your bulbs helps them to show off to the best effect, even when you prefer the mixed flower bed, country garden look. The smaller varieties, particularly the Snakes Head Fritillary, work well when dotted about in lawn for a natural meadow look.

  • Plant your Fritillary bulbs in Autumn for Spring flowers;
  • The rule of thumb is to plant yuor Allium bulbs 10-20cm deep;
  • Spacing varies, but 20cm is good for tall varieties and 10-15cm for smaller ones;
  • Depending on species, the pointed or indented end is the top of the bulb.


Allium Bulbs planting instructions

Alliums will flower much later than most of your spring flowering bulbs, but that’s to your advantage. Step one is to choose a sunny spot. Although they’re un-fussy and easy to grow, getting Alliums off to the best start possible pays off. Compost is perfect for improving almost any soil’s texture and structure, so start by digging plenty of compost in to your beds.

  • Plant Allium bulbs in Autumn for late Spring flowers;
  • Plant at about four times the depth of the bulb’s diameter;
  • Smaller Alliums are spaced 8-10cm apart, larger ones need 20cm;
  • Ensure that the pointed end of the bulbs face upwards.


Spring Planting Bulbs (Flowering in Summer)

Summer bulbs, -corms and -tubers can be planted from March to mid-June as long as the danger of frost has passed. They will then produce flowers in abundance that very summer. Some, like Dahlias and Crocosmia, can even keep on flowering into the autumn!

Because bulbs already contain their own flowers, you don’t need green fingers to get results. You can’t help but succeed! Anyone can plant bulbs, and turning your garden or terrace into something beautiful makes a nice little project. Before you know it, you’ll be getting down on your knees to see if the first green shoots have managed to break through the soil. And that’s just the start of the show.


-  Choose a sunny spot: summer bulbs love the heat;
-  Make a hole in the ground: its depth should be an average of twice the 
diameter of the bulb/corm/tuber;
-  Put the bulb into the hole with its ‘nose’ pointing up and its ‘beard’ pointing 
-  Cover with soil; its depth should be an average of twice the diameter of the 
-  If it’s not going to rain, give the bulbs some water;
-  You could also make a larger planting hole or ‘bed’: rake the soil to loosen 
it a bit and then plant the bulbs.


Summer bulbs will also thrive in pots. To use them this way, choose ones like the not-so-tall Dahlia and Begonia varieties. In the bottom of the pot, put some pot shards obtained from an old flower pot. Or use clay granules made from fired clay  that you can buy at a garden centre. Either material serves the same purpose: to make sure that excess water can drain away. This is important because summer bulbs don’t like to get their feet wet. (But they don’t like it too dry either, so don’t forget to water them in the summer.) Then fill the pot with potting compost and plant the summer bulbs. Be sure to plant them at a depth about twice the diameter of their bulb. Give them some water, sit back and relax with a good book, and keep your fingers crossed for a nice warm summer.


The more you plant in the spring, the nicer your summer will be. Summer-flowering bulbs like to grow where other plants grow as well. By combining summer bulbs, corms and tubers with shorter, late-flowering plants that will remain attractive until frost and even afterwards, you can considerably extend the flowering season and make the whole garden so much more beautiful.


Summer bulbs have so many uses. And they thrive in pots as well. Plant them now for when you need them later – so handy if you suddenly have a bare spot in the garden. Pots filled with summer bulbs also make wonderful colour accents on the terrace or balcony. So let the summer begin!


Picking flowers is one of summer’s real joys. So reserve a spot in your garden as a cutting garden or cutting border, and be picking bouquets from your own garden later. Perfect choices would include Crocosmia, Dahlias, Gladioli and Lilies. If you love bountiful bouquets of wildflowers, be sure to plant bulbs that will give you a wide array of flower shapes and colours. You can plant each kind of flower bulb in a cluster, or have fun experimenting with combinations of flowers. This way, your cutting border itself will already be a feast for the eyes.


There are just two important tricks for keeping these summer bulb flowers pretty for a longer time: the right surrounding temperature and ultra-clean water. If bacteria start growing in the water, your flowers will fade a lot faster. Follow these tips to enjoy your bulb flowers much longer. Gladioli, Lilies, Calla Lilies and Dahlias can all be arranged in the same vase since none of them excrete any harmful substances that could affect the keeping quality of the other flowers.


Begonia Tubers planting instructions

Planting Begonia Tuberous Bulbs in Pots

Unlike most bulbs which have pointed tips, Begonia tubers have a hollow spot that tells you which side of the tuber should face upwards. The tuberous bulbs are easy to grow, but they don’t like soggy conditions, so choose a spot in the garden with well-drained soil or a free-draining potting mixture. Your Begonias will want light shade and protection from harsh winds.

  • Plant in spring after the last frosts;
  • Be careful not to plant them too deeply. The top of the tuber should be just under the soil surface;
  • Plant a few tubers close together but without allowing the tubers to touch each other for a full appearance;
  • Keep soil moist but not constantly soggy.

Begonia Growing Tips

  • While Begonias do best out of direct sunlight, they do like good light. A spot that gets morning sun will suit them well, or they can be grown in bright, filtered light indoors or out. Keep pinching out dead flowers to extend the flowering season and allow the plants to go dormant in autumn before lifting and storing the tubers;
  • In pots, you can just discontinue watering and store the pot away until next spring.


Dahlia Tubers planting instructions

How to plant dahlias in the UK

Dahlias love rich, well-drained soil in full sun. They’ll still give you lovely blooms without a lot of soil preparation, but enriching the soil at planting will give you even better results. Like most bulbs and tubers, they don’t like poorly drained soil, so dig in plenty of compost and raise the level of your garden beds slightly if you have heavy soil.

  • Plant your Dahlia tubers in spring for summer blooms;
  • You can see the stump of last year’s stem – plant so that it faces upwards;
  • Big varieties need more space than the compact ones;
  • Water them well, and keep the soil moist but not constantly sopping.

Dahlia Growing Tips

  • If you’re growing a tall variety with big blooms, plant stakes along with the tubers or add them soon after the tubers have sprouted. The plants’ leaves will hide the stakes;
  • It’s by no means necessary, but the large-flowered varieties will make the biggest blooms possible if you remove all but the terminal flower bud.


Crocosmia Corms planting instructions

Orange crocosmia

This South African species is incredibly tough. It shouldn’t need much (if any) supplemental watering, and it will thrive in full sun or light shade. It will tolerate poor soils, but it does like good drainage, so adding compost to your soil will give your plants a boost. Once you’ve picked your spot, it’s time to get planting!

  • The Crocosmia corms should be planted in spring;
  • Plant them 5-8cm deep and 15 to 20 cm apart;
  • Settle them in with a good watering.

Crocosmia Growing Tips

  • In all but the coldest areas, Crocosmias won’t need lifting, and they will grow and multiply without any special care or attention;
  • You can get tall or compact varieties, and the smaller cultivars make attractive container plants;
  • If the clumps become too dense or begin to take up too much room, lift them and divide them up during dormancy.


Lily Bulbs planting instructions

Lily Bulb planting

There are many varieties and sizes of lilies. If you’re growing tall varieties, planting them with stakes will prevent you from hurting your bulbs when the blooms need some support. In general, they’ll give you the best effect when you plant your bulbs in clusters consisting of 3-5 bulbs.

  • Order your Lily bulbs in time for spring planting;
  • Choose a spot that gets bright, filtered light or morning sun;
  • Add plenty of compost to the soil to ensure good drainage and soil texture;
  • Much after planting and water well.

Lily Growing Tips

  • You can grow lilies in full sun, but then your mulch will be very important since lilies like cool soil temperatures;
  • After flowering, start tapering off watering to allow your bulbs to go dormant and to prevent rot. Cut out dead flower stems so that the plant pours its energy into replenishing the bulb;
  • Unless your winters are very cold, your lily bulbs should survive their winter dormancy without lifting.


Calla Lily Bulbs planting instructions

Calla Lily Bulbs

Choose a container with generous drainage holes and a well-drained potting mix or find a spot in the garden where the soil drains freely. Your Callas want bright, indirect light, but not full sun. Morning sun is quite mild, and your plants will be quite happy to get it, but afternoon sun is too strong for them. Add compost to garden soil to improve the texture.

  • Plant your Calla Lily bulbs after the last spring frosts;
  • Look for the little bumps or ‘eyes’ – these show the top side of the bulb;
  • If you’re not sure which side is up, plant the bulbs on their sides;
  • Plant multiple bulbs in pots or arrange them in groups in the garden.

Calla Lily Growing Tips

  • With the exception of the white species-type calla, which will even grow with its roots submerged in water, good drainage is the key to growing great callas. In their natural habitat, they tolerate poor soils, but they will still benefit from light feeding during the growing season;
  • After flowering, Callas will go dormant. Taper off watering and store them when the leaves have yellowed completely.


Gladiolus Bulbs planting instructions

How to plant Gladioli Corms UK

Before planting your bulbs, add plenty of compost or well-rotted manure to the soil. If you have poorly draining soil, the added material will help you to build up your beds for better drainage. Plant your Gladioli en masse or dot clusters of bulbs about in mixed borders. Space them about 10cm apart, and plant them about 10cm deep.

  • Plant your Gladiolus bulbs (they’re really corms) in spring;
  • Gladioli can grow in containers but will be best in open soil;
  • Stagger plantings between May and July for an ongoing show of blooms;
  • The tall flower spikes may need staking. Add a stake or cane when you plant.

Gladiolus Bulbs Tips

  • In the South and West of the British Isles, your bulbs will survive over winter without lifting provided you give them a thick mulch. Otherwise, lift your bulbs after the foliage has browned off;
  • You will notice that there is an old, spent bulbs and a new one. Once you have dried the bulbs for a few weeks, you can break off the spent bulbs and discard it.


Too easy?

Yes, it is rather easy, but you don’t have to tell your admiring visitors that. A modest “Thank you,” when they complement you on your garden will do! If you’d like something that’s more difficult to grow, we suggest you try something other than bulbs.