The best bulbs to plant in autumn, here's a recipe for spring flowering success

The best bulbs to plant in autumn, here's a recipe for spring flowering success

The best time to plant a spring flowering display of bulbs is during September and October, when the summer is gently fading away. There's just one simple rule to follow: plant bountiful bulbs! These spherical powerhouses will easily establish themselves in your warm soil, ready to burst into new life as soon as the season dictates. It's a great way to help you think about the spring, rather than dwelling on the winter months that are lurking.

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The secret of spring flowering bulb success

The secret to bulb success lies in planning for successional, or layered, flowering. In other words, you can have bulbs flowering from January and February right up to the height of summer, provided you plan for it

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The days of summer bedding schemes within public open spaces aren't gone, but considerably reduced. The cost of buying annuals on a yearly basis doesn't always make good economic sense. Instead, bulbs, perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees are taking over. 

Good drainage

Just make sure that you allow for good drainage. Wet weather during winter can easily cause your precious bulbs to rot away. Incorporate grit into containers and into soil, where necessary and make sure that pots have holes in the bottom.

Good drainage is essential

Plant in layers

If you are planting into pots, try a ‘triple decker’ type of approach. There are some spring flowering bulbs that are ideally suited, and these include snowdrops, crocus, Iris, grape hyacinths, chionodoxas, hyacinths and of course, daffodils and narcissi. You can also try anemones and scillas, plus tulips. Tulips are always best planted slightly later in the year, so this is a great opportunity to plant other bulbs, then revisit the idea in November to add containers filled with tulips. There are tulip varieties that flower early and later, so even these can be given the same sort of treatment. tulips, spring flowering bulbs, plant bulbs, planting bulbs, bulbs in containers, drainage in pots, gardening,  

Achieve interest for longer with spring flowering bulbs

Planting at different levels is extraordinarily successful, even if you are not necessarily planting at optimum depths for each bulb variety. Put the later flowering bulbs nearer the bottom, even if it means planting deeper than ideal. Layer your pots so that the mid-season flowering bulbs are in the middle and the early flowering varieties nearer the top. It means that your pot displays will flower over a long period of time and give you heaps of joy, just when you need it most.

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It might be early to think about Christmas, but this is the traditional time to commence the forcing process for hyacinths. The ideas is that you encourage them to come into flower at Christmas. The middle of September is a great time to start off the process. They flower 10-12 weeks after potting, provided they are kept in a cool, dark place. Even under the bed or in a box should suffice. Once they produce shoots, you can bring them out of hiding and enjoy the gradual march to the festive season.

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Spring starts now!

You could view your autumn planting programme as the start of spring. This requires a little bit of imagination, but it’s an uplifting thought. So, what can you plant during the next few weeks to give you spring flowering beauty? Firstly, you might not know that there are three distinctive types of bulbs. The most common type are the bulbs of tulips and alliums. These actually shrivel away and die off after flowering. New bulbs form on the sides of the old ones and the flowers next year might be smaller.

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Secondly, bulbs such as daffodil act rather like perennials. In other words, the bulbs stay approximately the same, provided you allow the foliage to stay after flowering so that food supplies can return into the bulb itself, ready for repeat flowering the following year.

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Lastly, there are bulbs such as amaryllis, which come with embryonic bulbs for the next three years. These are already present with the parent bulb, so they should flower again provided you allow them to make enough food. Other ‘so-called-bulbs’ are actually corms. These include crocus, Crocosmia and freesia. They are flattened rather than spherical and have the habit of forming new corms every year, generally on top of the old one.

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Top six bulbs for spring flowering beauty

Crocus:Plant in drifts under deciduous trees or in groups within the lawn for maximum effect.

Daffodil and Narcissi; A cheery splash of yellow is guaranteed. Make sure you plant them where you can enjoy the sunny sight.

Cyclamen coum: Don’t under-estimate the beauty of these little fellows. Plant in shade in large groups and enjoy their subtle beauty.

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Camassia: These are great bulbs that produce tall spires of blue or white flowers in spring. They are both stately and beautiful when planted in groups.

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Allium: These have such great structural beauty that they are invaluable in both formal and naturalised schemes. Tall or small, there’s an Allium for every garden.

Tulips: There are tulips for early spring, right through to summer. So many different varieties, the splash of colour that can be achieved is breath-taking. Choose your varieties carefully if you want them to return year after year, however. Some are more reliable than others.

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