Time to Plant your Spring Flowering Bulbs!

Symphony of spring bulbs

Who would have thought an ugly onion looking object could grow into something as beautiful as this?

Spring flowering bulbs     Muscari Rosa Alba

Autumn, specifically mid-March to late May, is the ideal time to plant Spring flowering bulbs in Australia. And you don’t need a garden to be able to experience pleasure as the first green tendrils breaking free from the earth at the first signs of Spring.

Bulbs can be planted in pots or vases to brighten up your interior, window boxes or gardens with fully portable displays. Not only are they considered to be low maintenance and easy to grow even for the rookie gardener, watching their foliage and flowers unfold from an odd looking onion into an object of beauty is pure magic.

Sweet little pots of sprouting spring bulbs

SPRING FLOWERING BULBS

Daffodils, Jonquils, Tulips, Amaryllis Lilies, Hyacinth, Bluebells, Snowdrops, Anemones, Freesias, Alliums, Ranunculi, Dutch Iris, Grape Hyacinth, and more…

GROWING BULBS IN POTS

Step One: Select a deep pot or container with good drainage, preferably at least 3-4 times the depth of the bulbs you are planting.

Step Two: Fill your pot with a commercial potting mix (don’t add manures or compost). A slow release fertilizer can be mixed into the potting mix and applied each year as the bulbs emerge. (1)

Step Three: Plant your bulbs with the pointed side facing upwards (the only exception to this is Anemone and Ranunculi, if you are unsure you can always plant bulbs on their side and they will always grow upwards!). Aim to plant them twice as deep as the height of the bulb and the same distance apart as a general guide. (2)

Step Four:  Sit your pot in the shade until the leaves get to around 10cm, then place in full sun. Once flowers start to open, bring your pot indoors for everyone to enjoy. (3) 

Muscari Armeniacum

Step Five: Pots should be kept moist but not wet throughout the growing season, until the foliage dies off completely, to ensure the bulb is able to generate the energy it requires to produce next year’s flowers. Don’t be tempted to cut off the yellowing foliage!

Step Six: Once dormant, they should be planted in the garden to recover for the next season, protected from summer heat and excess water if possible. They are unlikely to re-flower consecutively each year if left in their pot, unless they are in an extremely large container.(2)

Alliums      Muscari armeniacum 'Valerie Finnis'

DESIGNING THE PERFECT POTTED DISPLAY

Groups of containers planted with a variety of flowering bulbs make a spectacular display. 

According to www.homelife.com.au, Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are all “excellent bulbs for small containers”.

Their website recommends to plant “pansies on top of the bulbs will soften the effect and the bulbs will grow through a carpet of colour”.

“Colour code your pansies to contrast or complement the colour of your bulbs, whatever your colour scheme. I like to plant 7-9 bulbs into each pretty pot; don’t be stingy!” (3)

Flowering pots of spring bulbs

CREATING A ‘BULB SANDWICH’

To get the most out of a limited amount of planting space, This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook likes to make a thick “bulb sandwich.” “All you need to do is dig one big hole, then layer in three bulb varieties according to their different bloom times,” says Roger. “Crocuses, tulips, and daffodils are a good trio.”

According to Roger, “Spring will bring sequential waves of flowers in the same spot. As the early-blooming crocuses fade, they will be followed a couple of weeks later by fresh-faced tulips, then, in another few weeks, a raft of daffodils. An added bonus: Each plant’s new growth will help camouflage the wilting flowers and leaves of its predecessors”.

“The hole should be 25cm deep, but can be any size or shape. A 30cm diameter planting area, for example, can accommodate 7 to 9 daffodil bulbs. Follow the earlier instructions for depth of planting and spacing”.

“After covering those deep bulbs with 10 – 13cm of soil, put in 9 to 12 tulips, which do best 12 – 15cm below the surface. Add another 5 – 8cm of soil, and the planting area is ready for 12 to 15 small crocus bulbs. Fill the hole to the top with more soil and soak the area with water. Keep it moist throughout the fall, then leave it dry until spring. The reward is a four- to six-week-long feast of flowers”. (5)

A 'bulb' sandwich

GROWING BULBS IN GLASS VASES

eHow Contributor Erica Roth describes how the likes of narcissus (ie. daffodils and jonquils), amaryllis and hyacinths can all grow from the bulb stage hydroponically (in water, without soil) in a glass vase. To do so, follow her steps below (and let us know how you go!):
Hydroponic bulb growing
Step One: Buy Vase – Knowing how wide a vase you need will depend how large the bulbs are. Line the bottom of the vase with around 5 – 10cm of small pebbles. The rock base serves as a stabilizer for your bulbs.
Step Two: Prepare your flower bulbs by removing any areas of the roots that appear brown and withered, as these parts of the plant are dead. Snip the dead roots off with a scissors and discard.
Step Three: Put the bulbs (root-side down) on top of the pebbles. Add some more pebbles on top of the bulbs to prevent them from floating away.
Step Four: Add water to the glass vase only until the bottom 2.5cm of the bulbs are covered. The entire bulb should not be submerged in water.
Step Five: Keep your vase of flower bulbs in a warm place that reaches at least 21 degrees Celcius, but it should not be placed in direct sunlight. The bulbs need to grow shoots before they can tolerate full sun. This process may take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. Observe your individual bulbs for the right time: when they’ve grown shoots.
Step Six: Water your flower vase as needed when you see the water level going down below the base of the bulbs. You may only need to water a couple times each week when the shoots are young.
Step Seven: Relocate your glass vase to a sunny spot, either indoors or outside once the bulbs have begun to flower. At this time, you can transplant the flowers to an outdoor flower bed if you wish, or you can leave them in the vase (5).
Tulips grown in glass vases         Daffodils growing in jars
References

1. http://www.daffodilbulbs.com.au/downloads/bulb-planning-guide.pdf

2. http://www.tesselaar.net.au/how-to-plant-and-grow-bulbs

3. http://www.homelife.com.au/gardening/how+to+grow/autumn+bulb+planting+,5042

4. http://www.ehow.com/how_5071158_grow-bulbs-glass-vase.html

5. http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20428384_20852089,00.html?crlt.pid=camp.JEfPN7ejjarN

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