How to plant summer-flowering bulbs in spring

Introduce a splash of summer colour to your garden

Planning ahead is an important part of gardening, and spring is the ideal time to get some bulbs in the ground ready for the summer.

Quick facts

Best time to plant: March-April

Flowering season: June - August

Difficulty: Easy, suitable for beginners

Space

Blue flower

Bulbs are one of our favourite things to plant, they’re ideal for beginner gardeners, easy to look after, and will quickly fill your garden with colour.

For a riot of colour in June, July and August, you should look to plant your bulbs between March and May. With careful choice, you’ll be able to enjoy these flowers throughout the summer season.

Bulbs explained

Bulb’ is a general term given to a variety of plants that have an underground storage organ for nutrients. This can include bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes. The ones most commonly planted in autumn for spring blooming are:

  • Bulbs – These are condensed, rounded, stems or leaves that create a storage organ for the plant.
  • Corms – Similar to bulbs, but smaller.
  • Rhizomes – Like bulbs and corms, rhizomes are actually stems rather than roots, but are usually elongated and found just beneath the surface of the soil.

Bulbs to plant in spring

The ones most commonly planted in spring for summer are:

  • Dahlia
  • Begonia
  • Gladioli
  • Lily
  • Freesia

 

Where to plant your bulbs

pink flower

Beds & borders

Whether you’re looking for something to add colour to spaces, or a complement to your existing plants, there is always a bulb to suit!

Dahlias and begonia will flower all summer long. Lilies and Gladioli are very colourful and will flower in a short vibrant burst.

Purple flower buds

Lawns

You can grow many types of bulb in lawns or areas of long grass.

Small flowered iris work well. For a natural-looking spread of flowers, when planting in a lawn take a handful of bulbs and gently scatter them, then plant them where they have fallen. Don’t mow the area until 6 weeks after the flowers die if you want them to flower again the following year.

Containers

Containers

Bulbs often do better in containers than in the open ground, because they can be grown in good-quality compost with good drainage.

Used on their own, individual types of bulb have a flowering period of just a few weeks but layering a container with a mixture of different bulbs will ensure that you have 2-3 months of colour. While lily's are small, delicate flowers, planting them their own container can give them the space to really have an impact.

Hanging flowers

Hanging baskets

Brighten up your patio with some beautiful hanging baskets full of your favourite bulbs.

Small summer-flowering bulbs, such as begonia, freesia and dahlia make a reliable display in hanging baskets.

Planting your bulbs

Space

sowing seeds

Spring-flowering bulbs are planted whilst dormant in autumn. With most bulbs, it’s a simple as digging a small hole, dropping in the bulb, and covering with soil/compost.

However, there may be a few with different requirements and preferences such as planting depth; so always check exactly what you’re planting and follow any particular guidance relating to that species.

Step 1

Dig down into soil to the required depth using the trowel, and make a hole wide enough to easily drop the bulb into. Bulbs and corms should be planted in a hole at least three times the depth of the bulb.

Step 2

Add a small handful of horticultural sand or grit into the planting hole to improve drainage and air circulation around the bulb.

Step 3

Place the bulb in the hole, with any pointed end or buds facing upwards.

Step 4

Fill the hole over with soil, breaking up any large clods as you go, then firm it down gently.

Top Tip

If planting in beds and borders, you may want to mark where you’ve planted to prevent you digging up the bulbs before they have emerged.

 

How to care for bulbs

Watering flowers

Watering

When planted in a bed, border or lawn, most bulbs will survive without extra water. Many bulb plants come from warmer climates than ours, and so will only need watering in especially dry conditions.

If they’re being grown in pots a good soaking once or twice a week will suffice if the soil has dried out. If the weather is very wet, move your plants to a sheltered area.

Feeding

These plants collect and store nutrients in their bulbs through their foliage, so it’s not usually necessary to feed them. However, to give them the best start, it’s worth digging in some compost and a little plant food (such as bone meal or Growmore) into the soil when planting.

Storage

Some bulbs are best left in the ground all year round, others will benefit from being dug up and stored somewhere cool and dry; as always, be sure to check what’s best for the type of bulb you are planting.

Some container grown bulbs will benefit from a few weeks out of the soil. Dig them up around eight weeks after the last flowers die, then shake off any soil and store in a cool, dry, dark place, checking regularly for signs of mould.

Pests

Pests

We aren’t the only ones charmed by the brightly coloured flowers from bulbs. Many of our visiting garden animals and insects do too.

There are a few pests and diseases which can cause problems which you should look out for. For more information read our helpful guide.