Create a stunning display with spring bulbs

Plant bulbs in autumn for a stunning spring display. Brand new bulbs are almost certain to flower at least once, and the nourishment they receive this year will determine the health of the bulb for the next flowering season

February 27, 2020

Landscaping with bulbs

When landscaping with bulbs, remember that mass flowers in bold groups give the best effect, so plant generously! Some bulbs grow well in light shade which is great when you want to brighten up the space under a leafless deciduous tree. If you have a large garden you can dedicate part of it to a naturalised bulb landscape - plant a mix of early, mid and late-flowering bulbs to add colour for as long as possible. It's a good idea to place markers where your bulbs are so you don't forget and dig them up by accident.

When preparing the soil for bulbs, make sure it's free draining and add well rotted animal manure. Apply liquid fertiliser when flowers appear - this will nourish the bulbs for next year's flower.

Usually the bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower. Bulbs are usually planted twice as deep as they are wide with the pointy end facing upwards, there are exceptions like anemones and ranunculus which grow from corms that are planted with the spikes facing down.

Bulbs in pots

Bulbs are fantastic in pots - they can have pride of place while in full bloom, and be kept out of sight when they have wilted and are past their prime. Use a proprietary bulb mix for best results in pots, and choose a deep pot that allows plenty of space for roots. Bulbs don't mind being a bit crowded, as long as they're not touching each other.

A popular technique for pots is lasagna planting - layering different bulbs on top of one another so that there's always something in flower over the season. Try daffodils on the bottom layer, hyacinths in the middle, and anemones on top.

Getting the timing right is key to success with planting bulbs. Too soon and bulbs like tulips and daffodils will be 'cooked' in the soil before they've even had chance to develop. Too late and they won't get the period of cold temperatures they need in order to nudge them out of dormancy. Chilling tulips in the fridge for 6-8 weeks will give them the start they need, so you need to plan early if you want to grow them in Perth. If you are refrigerating tulip bulbs be sure to store them away from fruit and vegetables as the natural ethylene gas given off by ripening fruit can damage the bulb.

After flowering

Remove spent flowers but leave the leaves intact until they have completely died off. This is the bulb's time to rejuvenate in readiness for the following year, and it needs as much sunlight on its leaves as possible. Once the leaves have died off, tulip bulbs should be dug up and stored in a cool dry place. Most other bulbs can be left in place but if you prefer to dig up and store them, it won't do any harm.

Bulbs for beginners

If you haven't tried planting bulbs before, now is the time to check out the amazing varieties available. Start with these bulbs which are the easiest to grow in Perth's temperate climate.

Anemone and ranunculus - Grow from corms, which are planted with the points downwards. They flower in hues of red, pink and blue and look great together. Plant in a full sun position. They both make excellent cut flowers. For best results plant new corms each year.

Babiana (baboon flowers) - Blue, purple or white flowers grown from corms which can be left to grow year after year. Great as border plants in a full sun or part shade position.

Freesia - Highly perfumed flowers in a huge variety of colours - freesias are very tough and come back year after year with very little attention.

Jonquil - Very adaptable, early flowering and fragrant. Jonquils are like mini daffodils.

Sparaxis (harlequin flower) - Colourful striking flowers in a variety of colours with black markings.

Hyacinth in a vase

For a bit of fun, try growing a hyacinth in a narrow-necked vase. It's fascinating to watch the roots grow daily, and you'll end up with a fragrant bloom that lasts about two weeks. Wear gloves when handling hyacinth bulbs as they can cause irritation.

  • Choose a squat vase with a narrow neck and place the bulb in the top of the vase, pointy end up.
  • Fill the vase with water to just below the base of the bulb.
  • Place the vase in a cool dark cupboard and wait for roots to develop and grow down into the water.
  • A shoot will eventually develop and once it's about 6cm tall, bring the vase out, place it in a lighter spot and wait for the flower to bloom.
  • Change the water every couple of days.

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