Mouldy tulip bulb

Spring bulb problems solved

Check out some of the commonest problems affecting spring bulbs, both while planting and flowering.

Bulbs like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths provide glorious colour in spring.

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To get the best from them there are several things to take into account, both when planting and while they’re in flower.

Not sure which spring bulbs to plant? Try a spring bulb pot for bees, or have a go at planting bulbs in lawns, for a more natural look. For something more unusual, check out these parrot and fringed tulips to grow.

Check out this handy guide on solving problems with spring bulbs, below.

Bulbs like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths provide glorious colour in spring. 

Bulbs planted too shallow

Bulbs planted at too shallow a depth can be problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’re more exposed to being eaten by slugs or dug up by squirrels. It can also encourage more foliage at the expense of flowers. To help avoid this, make sure they’re planted at three times their depth. Mark their location with gravel to avoid slicing through them with spades.

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Bulbs planted too deep

As a rule it’s better to plant too deeply than too shallowly, but avoid overdoing it as the bulb shoot may fail to emerge from the soil, or bulbs may produce foliage but no flowers. Plant spring bulbs three times their depth to avoid problems.

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Slug-eaten bulbs and flowers

The best-way to prevent slug and snail damage to bulbs is to ensure they’re planted deep enough where they can’t access. To prevent damaged blooms, try using beer traps, grit mulches or pick the culprits off by hand. Discover more ways to stop slugs eating your plants.

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Mouldy bulbs

Before planting your bulbs, inspect them for any signs of mould. Any that feel soft or are visibly mouldy should be thrown away. Though they may grow if planted, spores can easily spread to and infect other bulbs. If storing bulbs, do so in a cool, dry place in paper bags or nets. Discard any that show signs of mould.

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Planting in waterlogged soil

In general, bulbs do best in a well-drained soil, and many, tulips in particular, will dislike especially heavy soils. You can get round this by planting bulbs that enjoy heavier, damp or waterlogged soils, such as snake’s head fritillaries, crown imperials and snowdrops. Discover more plants for clay soils.

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Bulbs not flowering

The wrong planting position is a common reason behind bulbs failing to flower. Daffodils that fail to flower are said to be ‘blind’, and are often a result to being planted too shallow, planted too late (mid-September at the latest) or if in too dry a soil. You can also remove faded flowers to prevent them from going to seed. The same is true for tulips, with the exception that bulb planting is best left until late October or November.

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Diminishing bulb performance

Some spring bulbs, such as daffodils and snowdrops, can grow to form large clumps. To keep flowering performance at it’s best, lift and divide them every few years. If your tulips fail to flower each year, try growing species tulips like Tulipa tarda and Tulipa clusiana.

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Forcing spring bulbs

Not got a garden or outdoor space? Lots of spring bulbs can be ‘forced’ – a process that tricks the bulbs into flowering early, providing winter blooms, perfect for growing indoors. Take a look at nine spring bulbs to force in autumn

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