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Bulb Planting Advice

Bulb planting advice

Fentongollan's 5 top tips for successful bulb planting this Autumn

Choosing your flower bulbs

Planting flower bulbs

After care

Caring for Daffodils

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Flowers and Bulbs

Crocus Bulbs

Hyacinths Bulbs

Fentongollan's 5 top tips for successful bulb planting this Autumn

1/ The best time for planting is between September and November, plant in free draining soil to a depth that is two and a half times the height of the bulb.

2/ It is always best to check the flowering times and heights. Shorter stemmed varieties are best for exposed locations and by inter planting different varieties you can often extend the period of flowering by up to three or four months.

3/ If you are planting in containers or window boxes make sure there is a hole in the bottom and add bits of broken pottery or stones to assist free drainage and air circulation. It is best to use a peat compost or a potting soil and coarse sand mix. In containers they can be planted much closer together and a good trick is to layer the bulbs with the latest bloom time at the bottom encouraging multiple flowering. Protect from frosts by covering or place in sheltered spot during freezing periods.

4/ For annual flowering allow the leaves to die back naturally before cutting them off and although not essential, it can be beneficial to add some potash rich fertiliser after flowering.

5/ Bulbs are incredibly versatile, they are best planted in a sunny location but some will thrive in more sheltered spots especially woodland varieties. They will bring colour to grass verges, lawn edges, hedgerows and other forgotten corners.

Remember, most bulbs will appear year after year and require little maintenance making them one of the most rewarding garden investments you can make.

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Choosing your flower bulbs

There are two main considerations; what type of bulb and when you would like them to flower.

a) Type

All daffodils and narcissi are classified according to their type. Using the pictures or the Royal Horticultural Society classifications you can choose the exact type for your requirements. The range and combination of daffodils and narcissi bulbs to choose from is wonderfully varied.

b) Flowering time

Each daffodil variety flowers at specific times in the flowering season. In general you can have daffodils and narcissi in your garden for 10 to 12 weeks by choosing bulb varieties that are listed as early, mid season or late flowering.

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Planting flower bulbs

a) Garden situation

Daffodils look their best if planted in groups of about 10 bulbs, or mass planted at random. They should be planted with the nose of the bulb 4” - 6” below the surface of the soil and at least 6” apart. Plant anywhere in the garden in a free draining situation, avoiding total shade and close proximity to south facing walls where the soil temperature is likely to become uncomfortably hot for the bulbs. Plant August – November when ground conditions are right. Best time late September – early October.

b) Naturalising in grass and rough ground situation

Daffodil bulbs are tolerant of all sorts of conditions and can be planted and left in situ undisturbed to naturalise for many years. Where possible try to get at least 4” of soil over the top of the bulb, but as long as it is buried in soil it will generally survive and thrive. Half prizing up the turf with a sharp garden spade is a quick and easy way to make a hole for one or two bulbs.

c) Containers – Troughs, tubs and window boxes, outside

Best results are obtained with good balanced compost or a mixture of compost, soil and some coarse sand. Every container must have a drainage hole(s). A few pieces of broken pots or stones in the bottom will assist drainage. Plant large bulbs 4”-6” deep, small bulbs 2”-3” deep and 2”-3” apart. Bulbs should be planted early autumn to ensure good root growth before the onset of damaging frost. When severe or prolonged frost is forecast some protection of the container is beneficial e.g. bring inside, or a surround of bubble wrap or even layers of newspaper would help.

d) Indoor Pots and Containers for Hyacinths

Plant as above and place in coolest darkest place available.

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After care

After flowering the leaves should be left untouched for as long as possible as they are building up energy within the bulb for next years flower. They should be left for 6 weeks after flowering and as a general rule nothing should be cut down before the 1st of June. Feeding the daffodil bulbs from time to time with potash fertiliser, sulphate of potash or wood ash (about 2oz per square metre) is beneficial but little or no nitrogen is required. Fertiliser is best applied Autumn or very early Spring.

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Caring for Daffodils

Helpful Tips

a) A top-dressing of potash applied in the autumn from time to time is beneficial, especially where nutrients are leached by drips from over-hanging trees.

b) Daffodils should be left as long as possible before mowing or trimming off. Where they are annoyingly untidy a compromise can be made by trimming anytime after 25th of May, after which little damage will be done to the vigour of the stock

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Planting Tulip Bulbs

a) Garden Planting in Borders and Beds

  • Excellent for formal planting or to add a huge range of colour to your garden
  • Choose your bulbs for height, colour and time of flowering according to your chosen site.
  • Plant at about 6” depth 5-6” apart in a free draining sunny situation.

Best left undisturbed for flowering the following year.

  • Remove old stems and leaf when completely withered.
  • Feed of potash rich fertilizer is beneficial in Autumn or early Spring.

b) Planting in Pots and Containers

  • Plant as soon as possible in late Summer or Autumn.
  • Plant at least 4” deep in peat or mix of peat, soil and coarse sand.
  • For indoor, pots and containers must be kept cool and dark for 12 weeks.

Good idea to bury behind hard facing wall under 6” ash or sand.

  • Best effect obtained if bulbs are planted with the flat side outwards.
  • When uncovered for flowering keep in as strong light as possible and in a cool room at night.

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Flowers and Bulbs

Advice for Spring Flowering Bulbs & Corms

CHOOSING - Bulbs available August - November. Choose firm bulbs and corms and take special care to note time of flowering, height and colour.

PLANTING - Plant in free draining soil as soon as possible in autumn; 6-7 inches deep 5-6 inches apart (large bulbs), 4-6 inches deep 5-6 inches apart (hyacinths and smaller bulbs), 2-4 inches deep 4-5 inches apart (small bulbs and corms).

NARURALISING - Daffodils and narcissi as well as crocus are particularly suitable. Plant in grass verges, lawn edges, hedgerows, banks, around trees (not in deep shade), ponds etc. Plant at random. To prize-up turf with sharp spade is a quick way to plant.

AFTERCARE - Always allow leaves to die back naturally and completely before cutting off. Clear dead leaves and debris and keep serious weeds in check. Potash-rich fertiliser (little or no Nitrogen) is beneficial to all bulbs applied in autumn or very early spring. Bulbs in flowerbeds may be dug up and dried in late June/July and re-planted in autumn.


Drainage hole(s) are essential. Cover holes with bits of old broken crockery to assist free drainage. For good root establishment, it is important to plant as soon as possible, and leave in a cool place until leaves appear.

Plant in peat, compost or a mixture with soil and coarse sand, depth as above but bulbs may be planted much closer together. Protect from severe frost by bringing temporarily inside or wrapping with some material like bubble-wrap or even layers of newspaper.


Plant as for ‘Outdoors’. Pots and containers should be at least twice as deep as the bulb. As before, good root establishment is essential so cool storage for at least 12 weeks is necessary. Keep in dark (or cover), or ‘plunge’ behind a north facing wall and cover with 6 inches of ash or sand. Keep moist and protect from mice. Plant all bulbs 2-4 inches below surface. Hyacinths may have bulb tip showing. Plant tulips with flat side outwards for best effect. When brought out for flowering keep in as strong a light as possible. Flowers will last longer if out in cool room at night. Keep well watered.

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Crocus Bulbs

Advice on Crocus & Other Small Bulbs & Corms

a) Garden Planting

Crocus provide wonderful early splashes of colour in border edges and rockeries of your garden.

Excellent for naturalising in lawns, under and around trees, in banks etc.

Plant crocus 2” deep (deeper if there is risk of mice and squirrels) 3-4” apart.

A little potash rich fertilizer in Autumn is beneficial.

b) Planting in Pots and Containers

Plant your crocus bulbs as soon as possible in Autumn in peat or a mix of peat, soil and coarse sand. 2” deep and 2-3” apart.

Keep your crocus bulbs in as cool a place as possible and in the dark for 10 weeks before bringing out in to strong light to flower.

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Hyacinth Flowers & Bulbs

Advice on Growing Hyacinths

Wear gloves when handling Hyacinth bulbs to avoid skin irritation.

a) Indoor Pots and Containers for Hyacinths

Choose “prepared” bulbs.

Plant as soon as possible in containers that are at least twice the depth of the bulb.

Plant bulbs in peat (or peat, soil and sand mix) with tip of bulb just showing.

Place containers in a cool dark place for at least 10 weeks to allow proper root development.

Bring out in to warmth and strong light 2-3 weeks before desired flowering time.

Keep moist throughout, and water regularly when in the warmth.

If roots have forced bulb out of pot, tip out and replant with more peat.

Plant in garden as soon as possible after flowering.

How to get an even bowl of hyacinths, even using different colours: Plant bulbs in individual pots. Select bulbs at the same growth stage just before flowering to plant up in the bowl.

a) Indoor Pots and Containers for Hyacinths

Ideal for formal planting, or to add brilliant splashes of colour around your garden.

Plant as soon as possible, 4-6 inches deep in well drained soil.

Leave undisturbed after flowering for years of spring colour.

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