Gardening > Grow The Most From Your Bulbs

Grow The Most From Your Bulbs

The first burst of colour in the spring garden usually comes from daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops and tulips. These are all planted in form of rather unpromising looking brown, papery bulbs, usually during the previous autumn.

Bulbs are, in fact, a fairly fool-proof way of growing flowers. As long as the bulbs are healthy and of a good size they are likely to be successful and do not require much gardening skill. All the hard work has been done already by the professional growers.

Choose a well-drained site of fairly rich soil and dig in some bonemeal (as recommended on the bonemeal pack). On no account use farmyard manure. Plant the bulbs immediately after purchase to a depth of 2-3 times the width of the bulb. If you have no choice but to use a wet site choose daffodils rather than tulips. It is a good idea to find area (under trees for example) where the bulbs can be left undisturbed and where they will eventually naturalise.

Once the bulbs have flowered allow the foliage to die back completely so that the bulb can reabsorb all the nutrients from the leaves. At this point the bulbs can be fed with a liquid fertilizer. Once all the leaves have died down the bulbs can be carefully lifted. If there are any bulblets growing remove them from the main bulb and then plant them 2-4 inches deep in a separate bed. If left undisturbed they should be big enough to flower after 2-3 years. Replant the main bulb where flowers are required for the next year.

Some favourite bulbs:
Allium Bulbs
Anemone Bulbs
Camassia Bulbs
Chionodoxa Bulbs
Crocus Bulbs
Daffodil & Narcissi Bulbs
Eranthis Bulbs
Erythronium Bulbs
Hyacinth Bulbs
Leucojum (Snowflake) Bulbs
Oxalis (Wood Sorrel) Bulbs
Tulip Bulbs

If you are lucky enough to have a nice display of flowers make sure you keep vigilant and look out for any potential problems that might spoil the bulbs for next year. Here are some of the problems that can arise:

Narcissus Fly:

These flies lay their eggs in the crown of daffodil bulbs once the flower and leaves have died down. The maggots then develop in the centre of the bulb destroying it. The bulbs become soft and may produce a few leaves in the next year but no flowers. Hoe carefully around bulbs in order to disturb the eggs.

Stem and Bulb Eelworm:

Eel worms will attack daffodils, tulips and hyacinth bulbs. Once these tiny worms have entered the bulb it becomes soft and rotten. Characteristic dark rings can be seen if the bulb is cut into. The next year the bulb will produce a few pale and twisted leaves with yellow swollen patches. If you find eelworm destroy all the affected bulbs and do not grow bulbs in that bed for three years.

Bulb Aphid:

Aphids can attack tulip bulbs and if a bulb is planted with aphids on it growth can be affected. Brush aphids off the bulb before planting.