It’s always exciting when bulb time comes round again and shops and nurseries around the country display a wonderful array of colourful varieties to add special magic to your spring and summer gardens.
Autumn bulb planting for the stunning spring display is very popular in Victoria, NSW and cooler areas of Queensland. Most bulbs are suitable to be planted in pots and when planted en masse in gardens alongside evergreen plants they make spring gardening truely worth it.
Try arranging mixed bulb varieties to flower early season, mid season and late season for a continued long lasting flowering display. When planting in pots and while the bulbs are dormant, plant some winter annuals on the top layer so the pot is full of colour all year round.
Easy to grow bulbs
Bulbs that grow very well in NSW, Victoria and temperate areas of Queensland include anemone, babiana, dahlia, freesia, grape hyacinth, lachenalia, snowflake (leucojeum), lilium, nerine, chincherinchee and ranunculus, as well as tritelia and tritonia.
For heavily perfumed flowers, you can’t go past freesia and hyacinth. Plant these in autumn and they will flower in spring. Lilium needs to be planted in winter and will provide wonderfully scented flowers at Christmas.
Where to plant a bulb
Bulbs prefer well-drained, slightly acid soil which has been prepared in advance with the addition of organic compost such as 5 IN 1 Organic Fertiliser or well-rotted cow manure. Lower growing bulbs such as jonquils, ipheion and ranunculus make excellent pot plants for sunny balconies and patios. When planting in pots, use Searles Platinum Potting Mix. Clay soil should be broken up with gypsum before planting.
Gardeners with the luxury of space should plant bulbs in large drifts, clumps and islands for maximum impact. Many, such as jonquils and snowflakes can be left to naturalise and multiply on their own for a number of years. If your garden is small, plant your bulbs into a large plastic pot and sink it into the ground. When your bulbs have finished flowering simply lift the pot out and store it in a cool dry place until next year. This is also a good idea if your garden is subjected to excessive summer heat.
How to plant a bulb
As a general rule, bulbs should be planted to a depth twice that of their size. Make sure the narrowest end, or neck, is at the top. Backfill the planting hole gently to avoid damaging the growing tip. For a dense display, plant bulbs in two layers approximately 10cm apart. Keep moist but not wet. Tulip and hyacinth will benefit from being refrigerated for 8 weeks prior to planting.
Prior to budding, fertilise fortnightly with Searles Flourish Flowers & Foliage Soluble Plant Food and you’ll be rewarded with a dazzling display of flowers through the warmer months.
Bulbs store their own food for use during the current season’s flowering and should therefore be fed with a soluble fertiliser when the flowers have finished but before the foliage has died back. For this reason it is essential to resist the temptation to cut off straggly foliage until it is completely dead.
Bulbs for warm climates
If you live in a warmer area like Queensland or northern New South Wales, put spring flowering bulbs in the fridge crisper at 5˚C for 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant them into cool soil in March or April. If in doubt, plant them into pots and place them in the coolest, shadiest part of your garden.
They need sunlight in order to flower so when the time comes, move them onto terraces, verandahs or sheltered garden spots for some gentle sunshine. Daffodil, Dutch crocus and Dutch iris will also benefit if treated like this.
Try growing these warm climate bulb varieties. They look great planted en masse, in potted displays together with other flowering annuals or perennials.
> Habranthus robustus,
> Hymenocallis littoralis (spider lily),
> Zephyranthes candida,
> Eucharis (Amazon lily),
> Scadoxus multiflorus (blood lily),
> Sprekelia formosissima (Jacobean Lily)
BULB PLANTING TIPS
• Bulbs that flower in summer should be planted in winter or spring and don’t require chilling.
• Aesthetically, bulbs look best planted in clusters or en masse, so buy as many as you can. Think at least in dozens (thousands, if you can afford it!).
• Water immediately after planting. Water is stored naturally inside the bulb, so bulbs require little watering. During drought, or in areas that receive little rainfall, water once a week only.
• Excellent drainage is vital for bulbs. Build up mounds of garden soil if necessary, before planting.
• Always plant bulbs pointy end up, except for ranunculus and anemones which should be planted pointy end down.
• Fertilise bulbs when the first shoots appear above the ground, and once again after flowering.