Planting and Caring for Spring Bulbs

Yvonne Grace: Horticulture Lecturer, Waterford Institute of Technology offers advice for planting and caring for spring bulbs. 


Most flower in late winter or early spring, the colours can range from white to yellow to purple. The goblet shaped flower opens wide in full sun revealing beautiful orange stamens, the male part of the flower, which holds the pollen for visiting insects. Most crocus are fragrant and are happy growing in fertile but well drained soil or compost.  They are ideal for growing in containers and if you feed with an all-purpose plant food after flowering, they should arrive again next spring to put on another display. They can of course be planted out in the garden and will be happy naturalised in grass or in gravel or amongst your bedding in the borders.

Plant crocus corms in moist but well-drained gritty soil in full sun, planting the corms at a depth of three times their own size. Make sure you plant your crocus corms with pointed tip facing upwards and the flattened end at the bottom of your planting hole.

Crocuses are relatively trouble-free, although newly planted bulbs may fall prey to hungry squirrels or mice in the autumn, so it is worth covering pots with wire mesh.

Watch the video in this link to see how Gardener’s World Monty Don advises on planting Crocus.


Bulbs can be grown indoors and forced to flower for Christmas time or allowed to flower outdoors in March-April.

First method: Growing in pots for indoors

Prepared hyacinths need to be kept below 9°C for six weeks, while unprepared bulbs need 10 weeks. If planted now using this method, you should have flowers soon after Christmas.

Step 1

Half fill a pot with general-purpose compost. Do not firm it down this allows the roots to push through easily.

Step 2

Place bulbs on the surface, close but not touching each other, or the sides of the pot.

Some people have an allergic reaction to hyacinth bulbs, so wear gloves.

Step 3

Fill around the bulbs with more compost to about 2cm below the rim of the pot, leaving the tips of the bulbs showing.

Step 4

Water the bulbs. Take care not to overwater, especially if the container has no drainage holes.

Step 5

Put in a cool, dark place, such as a dark corner in a shed, garage or even the porch, to chill. Check on them regularly to ensure that the compost has not dried out. When the shoots are about 5cm high, bring the pots indoors, where they will take about three weeks to flower. Keep from drying out.

Note: After flowering indoors, move the containers to a sheltered spot in the garden and feed with a general-purpose plant food to encourage flowering next year. Alternatively, tip them out and plant them in the garden in a sunny spot.

Watch the link here for a short video from Gardener’s World Monty Don.

Second method planting outdoors

Plant bulbs outdoors in borders and containers in early autumn for flowering in March and April.

They prefer well-drained, moderately fertile soil in full sun if they are going to remain in one place for a few years. They will also tolerate partial shade for a one-off display, but they will bloom less well in the following years if left there. They are fully hardy in the ground but can be frost tender in containers in cold gardens and severe winters. Plant your bulbs with their noses held high and 10cm (4in) deep. Bulbs need a minimum gap between them of 7.5cm (3in). Water after planting to settle them in.

Note: Once all the foliage has died down you can lift the bulbs, clean off the soil and store them in a cool dry place for replanting in the autumn. If you have well drained soil you can leaves the bulbs in the ground to flower next year