Planting bulbs

Posted: Monday 5 December 2011
by James Alexander-Sinclair

Have you planted your bulbs yet? Or are they still sitting in boxes in the shed?

Bag of bulbs

Have you planted your bulbs yet? Or are they still sitting in boxes in the shed?

I have to admit that a lot of my bulbs remain decidedly above ground, and the time has come to get things sorted. Admittedly I have to deal with a huge number of bulbs (many, many thousands) for clients. Although thankfully, I no longer have to plant them all myself. But that is probably not a very good excuse, is it?

I planted some last weekend in the semi-darkness, which was jolly. There is no great skill in bulb planting, just a lot of rather tedious labour and bending down.

The general rule is to plant the bulb about twice its own depth and a good two bulb widths apart. This is particularly important with alliums as the flowers look better separated - if they bump into each other, it just looks like a flowery Venn diagram. In heavy soil, a layer of grit at the bottom of the hole won’t do any harm.

After planting, firm the soil down well so that there are no air pockets. This also makes it more difficult for marauding mice, who are quite capable of burrowing down and making short work of your bulbs - especially crocus.

Actually, mice are always a problem. I had a bag of 200 tulips sitting in my shed for a fortnight last year, during which time the mice ate about 80 of them. I hope it was lots of mice and not just one really enormous one!

Generally bulbs are among the most satisfying plants to grow, because they just get on with it on their own. Dig a hole, chuck in a bulb, go back into the warm and wait until spring. However if you plant bulbs in containers, particularly tulips, remember to water them. Otherwise the flowers will be never reach their full potential.

It may be that you are all much more organised than I - planting all your bulbs weeks ago, in which case all this information is a bit late. Sorry!

Oh, and remember to plant them the right way up….

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Talkback: Planting bulbs
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donutsmrs 07/12/2011 at 17:53

Can you tell me please if I should plant Nerine bulbs now as I have been given some and I'm not sure when they should go in.
The rest of my bulbs went just a few weeks ago, better late than never.

Emma Crawforth 09/12/2011 at 12:36

Hello donutsmrs,

Don't worry. Nerines are autumn-flowering bulbs so you don't need to plant them at the same time as spring-flowering bulbs. Planting in the spring will be fine. Have a look at our plant feature on Nerines at:

Emma team

donutsmrs 09/12/2011 at 16:44

Hi Emma, that is very helpful thank you very much. I will now keep them until the spring then put them into a nice pot.

gardengirl6 09/12/2011 at 21:58

Good luck with your nerines.   I think they are fabulous flowers.   I do not seem to be lucky growing them, though.    Last year I was given some, and I thought maybe I would be third time lucky trying to grow them.   They did grow and flower, and I thought I had it cracked.   However this year I got leaves only and not a single flower.  Where did I go wrong?

donutsmrs 10/12/2011 at 20:36

I've never grown Nerines so this will be a challenge. I hope I am going to be able to them for a long time, sorry to hear that yours didnt last gardengirl6. They are just so pretty when in bloom and just what you need to see on a dull November day.

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