'Do it now!': Plant summer bulbs now – avoid rot and get a magnificent summer display

9 mins read


Daffodils are possibly the most widely grown plant in the UK, planted in millions of gardens up and down the land, which is great, as they’re wonderful for springtime, but although you can buy ready grown potted examples of those to plant now “in the green”, they are best planted in Autumn into early Winter. They are found everywhere for good reason, as bulbs are so easy to grow, but the varieties for spring planting are often forgotten – but they really shouldn’t be.

Spring planted bulbs – and that’s a term that I’ll loosely use to cover the sometimes-confusing terminology of tubers, corms, rhizomes and any other technical names you may see around that often do, but certainly shouldn’t, put you off.

The old ways would have you doing this in February and March and going to a lot of extra effort to cosset them, but I say no, don’t do it then, do it now!

The temptation is certainly there with retailers filling the shelves with promising-looking packs early in the year, but if you plant early, there’s a huge risk of losing the bulbs to rot in the wet and cold ground, pest attacks by slugs and snails, and of course if they do start to emerge the late frosts can wreak havoc on tender young shoots of plants that just aren’t fully acclimatised to the conditions of your own garden yet. So, for me, now is the time, in fact right up to the end of May.

The best way is to look online and find varieties you like the look of as they’ll be delivered fresh from specialist storage facilities of the mail-order companies, whereas stock in heated shops could be getting de-hydrated and past its best.

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So what types of spring planting bulbs are there to choose from? Since they are often forgotten about compared to their autumnal planted cousins like the tulips, let’s start with one of the basics, and that’s the Gladioli.

These offer the gardener an amazing range of flower colours in tall spires and are of tremendous value providing weeks of vibrant colour in summer, and even cut stems for a vase, all with minimal effort.

They were regarded by some as a bit old-fashioned but try telling that to the supermarket florist department in mid-summer – modern hybrids have brought these flamboyant stars right up to date.

Planted right, they’ll return every year and reward you with plenty of colour every season.

If you want a continuity of blooming, you can plant a few of them every couple of weeks to extend your displays. If you’re canny, keep a bag in the veg drawer of the fridge (don’t eat them!) and they’ll stay fresh, allowing you to plant as late as the end of June to enjoy blooms right into September.

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This is one of the tricks the cut flower trade uses to bring you flowering stems over a very long season.

How to plant them? Simply dig a hole in fertile soil around 10 to 15 centimetres deep and add a layer of bulbs pointed end up before covering them up again – it really is that simple.

If your soil does not drain well and tends to be waterlogged at certain times, add some sharp sand or gravel at the bottom of the hole to aid drainage so they never sit in water and you can’t go wrong.

Now simply stand back and water if it’s dry, and a handful of granular plant food over the area will also give them a boost.

Expect them to emerge within as little as a fortnight with warm weather and damp soil and be ready with a few bamboo stakes or grow-through wire frames to support the rocketing stems if you’re in a windy or exposed spot as they burst forth soaring for the sky.

On a balcony or patio? Then just repeat the above process with a nice heavy planter and a quality compost, try and select a quality blend that drains well, but has a season-long feed (well worth the extra and one less job to do feeding through the summer with potions from the garden centre) to really boost the flower power.

A basic multi-purpose probably isn’t going to cut it, unless it’s got that extra feed added, but a shrub, tree and rose compost or a tub and basket one should do well.

All gladioli are striking on their own grown as a single variety for an impactful display, but try one of the mixed packs sold by all the good stores to have a literal riot of colour on your hands – in fact, you’ll often see gladioli blooming around the time of the carnival season, with probably just as many colours from one of these value bags.

If you’re being more stylish, be more selective and use a couple of carefully chosen different varieties and you can create a real on-trend statement – blending different colours within bulb varieties is really growing in popularity in recent years.

Try a dark burgundy-black shade with a pure white, and you have got a monochrome marvel – each colour helping to show off the other. Use vibrant pink and orange shades together, and it’s tropical fruit punch all the way.

If calming simplicity is what you’re after, then simply opt for a pure white and combine it with fresh green plants as a backdrop in your own garden. There’s a variety of gladioli out there to suit every taste and every garden.


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