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A guide to planting bulbs

February 14, 2019

Bulbs are an excellent choice for new gardeners. They are easy to grow and offer an array of colour with plants that bloom throughout the year.

Whether you choose dried or pre-potted bulbs, we have selected our top tips for getting the best out of your bulbs.

Pre-potted or dried bulbs: what’s the difference?

Bulbs can be bought dried or ‘in growth’ (pre-potted). Some plants are better to buy pre-potted as they do not suit being dried out.


What to buy in growth

  • Snowdrops (Galanthus)
  • Snowflakes (Leucojum)
  • Dog’s tooth violets (Erythronium)
  • Cyclamen
  • Lilies
  • Some daffodils (Narcissus)


When to buy

Available in autumn (from as early as July)

Buy as early in the season as you can to get the widest choice.

Whenever they are in leaf or flower.

Speak to your local nursery to find out the best time to buy your favourites.

TIP: The price of bulbs is a good indicator of how easy they are to grow: the lower the price, the easier they are.

When to plant

Plant straight after buying. If you need to delay planting, store pre-potted plants in an unheated greenhouse, cold frame or even the back of the garage.


How to plant

Planting your bulbs is very straightforward.

  • Single bulbs: Dig a hole, depth about 3 times the height of the bulb and place the bulb at the base, in firm contact with the soil.
  • Groups of small bulbs (e.g. crocuses): Dig a single, wider hole so the bulbs can be evenly spread.

 TIP: The depth is not too critical – many bulbs will adjust to their ideal depth over the next growing season.

  • Dig a hole slightly larger than the pot
  • Place your fingers across the lip of the pot, invert it and tap the rim on a firm object until the contents slide out
  • Turning the contents upright, lower it into the planting hole
  • Fill the hole up and firm the soil gently
  • Finish with a light watering.

Good bulbs for beginners


Anemone nemorosa (Wood Anemone)
Wide range of flower colours, including white, pink, lilac and blue. It prefers deep shade. (Flowers March - May)
Cyclamen coum (Eastern cyclamen)
Flower shades from pink to magenta. (Flowers December - March)
Eranthis hyemalis (Winter aconite)
Very easy to grow - good in heavy soils. (Flowers January - March)
Erythronium (Dog’s tooth violets)
E. denis-canis has many leaf patterns and flower colours (white through to pink and purple). (Flowers March - April)
Galanthus (Snowdrops)
The first bulbs to bloom in spring. Galanthus nivalis is the common snowdrop. (Flowers January - February)
Leucojum (Snowflakes)
All six petals the same size (unlike snowdrops). Spring snowflake flowers February - March. Summer snowflake flowers April - May.


Allium moly (lily leek)
Clusters of yellow, starry flowers. (Flowers May - June)
Chionodoxa (glory of the snow)
Large flowers in white, pink or blue with white centre. (Flowers March - April)
Crocus medius (intermediate crocus)
Lilac-purple flowers with contrasting orange-red stigma. (Flowers in October)
Crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus)
Bright yellow flowers. Many hybrids available. (Flowers in February)
Narcissus bulbocodium (hoop-petticoat daffodil)
Conical flowers in many shades of yellow. Plant in humus-rich soil. (Flowers February - April)
Tulipa saxatilis (candia tulip)
Large pale pink flowers with a bold yellow centre. Will flourish in sunny situations. (Flowers in April)