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12 Tips for growing bulbs successfully

12 Tips for growing bulbs successfully

Daffodils, Freesias,  Tulips, Anemones, Blue Bells are all classed as Spring Flowering bulbs, but the best time to plant them is actually in Autumn. The hibernating bulbs will happily go into the cooler soil of Autumn and Winter and then sprout up to put on a great show in Spring before dying back and hiding beneath the ground again in the warmer months.

On our property we have planted many thousands of bulbs and have them popping up everywhere. Great for cut flowers they require little care and are pretty easy to grow. Especially if you use a Power Planter to get them in the ground it is a very simple job.

If you live in the Cool or Temperate zones of Australia,

bulbs will do well coming up year after year.  

In the warmer subtropical areas you can still have a go, but you may find you need to treat the bulbs as an annual that flowers once and may not come back up again next year because the summer heat was too much for it. There is a practice known as chilling that you could use. This requires digging up the bulbs in early Summer once they have died back and then storing them in the crisper of your fridge ready to plant again in May the following year. It’s a bit more of an advanced technique if you are really keen to have them growing in a subtropical area.

How to plant bulbs in pots for a table display + planting bulbs in your garden

Bulbs look best when planted in clusters

We live in Sydney which is a temperate zone, so all of the bulbs have been happy staying in the ground without being dug up and chilled with the exception of Tulips which really need that extra cold the fridge gives.

Every Autumn at the Aussie Gardener Store we have our Bulbs in Bulk Sale where you can get top quality bulbs in decent quantities at great prices. It’s been very popular with our customers and we always sell out, so do get in early with your orders as soon as they become available.

When to Plant?

Even though bulbs start appearing in stores from March onwards, it really is not a good time to be planting. If you are in a Cool climate zone, plant in April, but for warmer Temperate and Subtropical zones, wait until May so that the soil temperature has cooled down.

Do they need special Soil?

Bulbs do like a good free draining soil otherwise they tend to rot when they are in their dormant stage. If your yard is all clay, try building up the soil in mounds or grow bulbs in Terracotta or Concrete pots. Don’t use black plastic as the bulbs close to the edge will overheat and fail to flower.  They do love soil that has good organic matter so adding compost when you plant will make them happy.

What should I feed them?

When you buy the bulbs, they should be plump and firm. That’s a good sign the bulb has a good flower stored up inside already so when you first plant they don’t really need any feeding. But once they start sprouting you can help them along with some liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks. The one we use is Nutrafeed Flower and Fruit Booster. It has a higher proportion of Potassium which will help with flower production. Once the flowering has finished, the plant will be taking in nutrients to produce next years flowers so you need to leave the leaves to totally die back before trimming them. Otherwise it won’t produce flowers next year. When the leaves are all gone and the bulb is dormant below ground there is no need to feed it.

Can I cover bulbs over with mulch?

Yes that’s a great idea. Plant the bulb about 2-3 times it’s height in the ground. eg. A large bulb like a Daffodil which is around 5cm tall you would plant it 10-15cm deep and then for extra insulation add a layer of mulch over the top. This is particularly important in warmer areas. 

Do bulbs always flower?

Most of the time they will sprout up and flower beautifully. Occasionally they will abort their flower and put all their energy into their leaves because they are in survival mode. This usually happens when the plants have been stressed by a few unusually hot days which dried them out. Don’t stress too much though as they will very likely come good again by the following year.

Do they grow well in pots?

Yes but terracotta or concrete pots are best for Bulbs to give them a bit of insulation from the heat. Black plastic pots will heat up and any bulbs near the edges may suffer and not produce a flower. One advantage of growing them in pots is that you can move them about and even bring them indoors for short periods. The Potting mix should be free draining (most potting mixes these days are) so that the bulbs don’t rot. Think of them as being like an onion.

This is what they look like when actively growing

Are they good for vases?

Daffodils do make a great cut flower but you will find they are best to not be grouped with other flowers in the vase. They have a self protective mechanism that releases sap into the water which stops other flowers drawing up the water! As with most flowers picked from the garden, select the ones that aren’t fully open yet so that you get an extended flowering period in the vase.

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Do you need to chill your bulbs in the fridge?

This mainly relates to Tulip bulbs which like a very cold winter in order to produce good flowers. If you live in a cool zone in the mountains or most of Tassie, you don’t need to worry, but for other Temperate zones you will need to dig your tulips up at the start of summer and store them in the crisper of your fridge until next April/May when you plant them again.

All the other bulbs we sell don’t need to be chilled except if you live in a Subtropical area and want to have a go with bulbs.

Where to plant?

A good spot would get morning sun or be part shade. Avoid hot afternoon sun if you are in a warm area. They do like a slightly acidic soil so don’t add lime or dolomite, instead mix in compost.

Which way is up?

Most bulbs have an obvious pointy end which should be pointing up when you plant. The only one that is a bit different is Ranunculi which have several pointy legs which should be pointed down. 

In reality though, bulbs will tend to straighten themselves out if the soil is well dug.

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How close should I space them?

Plant in clusters looks best, usually about 10cm apart. They will multiply every few years so at some point in the future you might want to dig them up (in early Summer) to split the group and plant in other spots or give them away to friends. If planting in Terracotta pots you can plant them right next to each other to make a great display. Later on you can split them up again.

How do I buy good quality bulbs?

Check out the bulbs page on our website to purchase some of your very own flowering beauties.

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