It is time to think ahead and plant bulbs for the Spring garden. Most Spring-flowering bulbs are best planted from Mid to Late Autumn. If planted then Spring bulbs will establish roots before Winter arrives giving them the longest period to grow and mature. This insures better plant health, quality and quantity of bloom.
But many varieties of Spring-flowerng bulbs can be planted onward as late as Mid Winter. Anemone, Freesia, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth),Ornithogalum and Ranunculus are prime examples that will often thrive in milder climatic zones if planted quite late. Hyaciinths, most Narcissus and some varieties of late-flowering Tulip will also flower when planted late. As long as they have three months of cool weather ahead of them, they should produce blooms but may not develop a strong enough root structure to carry them over for following years. Sometimes these are best regarded as 'annuals'. When late-planting bulbs into the garden, it is often sites that remain in cold wintry shade well into Spring that produce the best results. If the bulbs are planted into containers, either place these in refrigeration or outdoors in a similar chilling and cold, shaded position that doesn't freeze until roots appear out of the drainage holes and shoots begin to emerge. Then move the containers to a bright and cool position for flowering.
Pre-chilled bulbs are those that have been kept in refrigeration at roughly 4C degrees. They need between 12-16 weeks of chilling and no more than 22 weeks. This simulates their Winter cooling period. After this chilling period, the bulbs can be planted into containers or into garden beds where they will usually start flowering within 6-8 weeks. If clusters of bulbs are planted over a number of weeks, they will flower in succession and prolong the Spring bulb flowering season. Prechilled bulbs are classically planted from Autumn onward into Late Winter and even as late as Mid Spring.
These beautiful blooms are well worth the little effort it takes to grow them. For any garden lover who has ever endured a long, cold, grey Winter the sight of the first Spring Daffodil or Snowdrop peeping through melting snow is almost a religious experience.
That special lingering fragrance of Hyacinths, a bed of gracefully arching Tulips glowing in the Spring sunshine, or drifts of molten yellow Crocus, all bring fond garden memories to the botanically devout. Ask any of them and they will reassure the uninitiated that growing Spring bulbs is exciting, easy and memorably worthwhile.
Many Spring bulbs are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They prefer cold Winters, cool and damp Springs, and drier Summer weather.
Included here are:
most Narcissus species, Grape Hyacinths, Tulips, Scilla, Chionodoxa, Frittilaria, Crocus, Iris, Galtonia, Ornithogalum, and many more.
In very cold climates these bulbs represent the bulk of Spring colour. Galanthus (Snowdrop) Leucojum (Snowflake) and winter Aconite are famous for popping their hardy heads through snow.
The buds of Crocus, early Daffodils and bright, small Rock Tulips are so hardy they are sometimes frozen by late cold snaps and still flower undamaged the same afternoon! The 'world's favorite Tulip', Madame Lefeber, or the 'Red Emperor' Tulip with its enormous satin red flowers sometimes as big as dinner plates atop stocky stems is famous for freezing in Late Winter snow and then flowering undamaged as soon as the weather brightens and warms.
Another group of 'Tender' Spring flowering bulbs come from the Mediterranean, South Africa, and other milder climate zones with cool, occasionally damp Winters and dry, hot Summers. New shoots and occasional blooms appear in late Autumn or Winter onward into Spring.
Their tender growth can be damaged by severe freezing so they are restricted to sheltered gardens or the cool glasshouse. These bulbs are excellent for warm, drier positions that drain well and most of them thrive in containers.
Included here are:
Freesia, Babiana, Ixia, Sparaxis, Tritonia, Lachenalia, some Anemone, Narcissus, Ranunculus and Gladioli species.
Here are a few points to remember when planning and planting bulbs for Spring flowering: