Image
Planting bulbs

 


The Essential Guide to Growing Bulbs in Your Garden

 

Bulbs add stunning splashes of colour and fragrance, whether grown in garden beds or brighten up containers. 

Many bulbs are perennials, meaning they return year after year, providing continuous beauty with minimal effort. This also makes them a cost-effective choice for long-term gardening.

Bulbs can ensure your garden remains vibrant and interesting. With careful selection, you can have bulbs flowering at different times throughout the growing season. From the first snowdrops in late winter to gladioli, Dutch iris and tulips in late spring.

Daltons Premium Bulb Mix and Daltons Premium Bulb Fertiliser are specially formulated to help your bulbs thrive and can be used in the garden or containers.

 

Bulb Varieties

A variety of bulb flowers are available throughout New Zealand, including Anemones, Crocus, Daffodils, Freesias, Hyacinths, Irises, Ixia, Jonquil, Lachenalia, Muscari, Nerines, Ranunculus, Tulips, and Watsonia.

Bulbs can ensure your garden remains vibrant and interesting. With careful selection, you can have bulbs flowering at different times throughout the growing season. From the first snowdrops in late winter to gladioli, Dutch iris and tulips in late spring. 

 

Image
bulb varieties
Prime Planting Time

For lush colourful blooms in spring, plant new bulbs or re-plant existing ones from Late-February through till late April and choose a nice sunny, well-drained site. Before planting always check the bulbs growing instructions/label first.

For a vibrant display, plant bulbs in clusters. Don't be afraid to mix and plant different bulbs together to give lovely variations in height and colour.

Selecting the Best Bulbs

Start by picking healthy, well-sized bulbs and make sure to buy them early in the season when there is a wide selection. Inspect the bulbs thoroughly. If they're packaged in groups, do your best to examine each one. Steer clear of any bulbs that feel soft, appear too small, are shrivelled, or show signs of discolouration. 

Image
bulb selection
 
Planting Bulbs in the Garden
  1. Choose where you are going to plant in the garden – the ideal spot gets plenty of sun and has soil that drains well. 

  2. Prepare the site by removing weeds, particularly any perennial weeds which can make it difficult for bulbs to push up through.
  3. Cultivate a wide area to a depth of no greater than 10cm. Prepare the soil by thoroughly mixing in generous amounts of Daltons Premium Bulb Mix and Daltons Premium Garden Mix.
  4. Plant bulbs with the pointed end up, and twice as deep as the length of the bulb, and cover with soil. Make sure you plant them 10-15cm apart to give enough room for growth. 
  5. After planting, water them well and add a layer of Daltons Mulch & Grow on the surface of the mix to improve moisture retention. 
  6. It’s important to mark where your bulbs are planted in the garden, so you don’t accidentally disturb or dig them up when they’re dormant over winter. 

 

 

 
Growing Bulbs in Pots

The beauty of growing bulbs in pots is that they are portable. You can keep them at the bottom of the garden over winter, and transport them back to your porch or indoors when they begin flowering.

Every 3-5 years you will need to refresh the soil in pots; remove and check the bulbs, break up the bigger bulbs, and where necessary throw away any misshapen, damaged, rotten or old bulbs and replace them with new ones.

  1. Fill your container with Daltons Premium Bulb Mix leaving at least 3cm at the top of the container for ease of watering. 
  2. Place each bulb with the pointed end up to a depth of twice its own length under the surface and space then 2-3cm apart. 
  3. Make sure the bulbs are covered and the mix is firmly pressed down in the container.
  4. Water thoroughly and allow to drain. 
  5. Apply a layer of Daltons Mulch & Grow on the surface of the mix to improve moisture retention. 

 

Image
bulb flowers
Planting over Bulbs

Maximise your garden space and enjoy flowers all year round by planting winter annuals/potted colour on top of your bulbs. This keeps your garden vibrant and cheerful during the colder months. As the bulbs quietly develop underground, the winter plants will complete their cycle just in time for the spring bulb shoots to pop through the soil.

Read our How to Grow Flowers for Garden Colour guide for suggestions on what to grow.

After Flowering

At the end of the season once the flowers have finished, allow the leaves to brown and die down naturally to protect the plant and ensure maximum nutrients have been stored in the bulbs for the next season's flowering. Cutting off the leaves prematurely is a common mistake that can significantly impact the quantity of flowers in the following season.

You can leave the bulbs in the ground for next season (see below), or dig the bulb out and store them in a cool dry place until next autumn.

If you grow tulips in Auckland, treat them as annuals and remove them after flowering and replace them the following season with new bulbs.

Lifting Bulbs

In general, bulbs can be left in the ground for several years before it impacts their flowering. You can take bulbs out and dry them over the season although there is no real advantage in doing this unless you want to move their position.

  • If you would like your bulbs to naturalise (spread naturally on their own) just leave them in the ground and do not disturb them. However, with some varieties, particularly Irises and Lachenalias it is essential to lift them every 2-3 years otherwise their flowering will reduce.
     
  • If your bulbs are growing in containers or smaller areas, it is best to lift, check and replant them every three to four years. Simply dig up the bulbs, check their condition and remove any that are diseased or rotten. Divide them if need be (some may have multiplied) and plant them out again in the ground or back into containers with fresh Premium Bulb Mix.

 

At the end of the season (once the flowers have finished), the foliage (leaves) begins to brown and die down. Some people cut this foliage off too early and it is a major reason for reduced flower numbers next season. Leave them to brown and die down naturally to protect the plant and ensure maximum nutrients have been stored in the bulbs for the next season's flowering. 

Image
lifting bulbs
Image
bulb pot
Feeding and watering

Bulbs are remarkably self-sustaining and do not need any special watering, but in the event of a severe drought, give bulbs a thorough soaking once a week. If you experience severe flooding lift your bulbs if possible to reduce the risk of rot.

Fertilising Bulbs

When green foliage (leaves) starts to push through the soil, feed your bulbs by applying Daltons Premium Bulb Fertiliser – this also applies to bulbs grown in pots. Dig the fertiliser in lightly and always water it in well.  This will promote healthy, vigorous blooms. 

After your bulbs have finished flowering, apply Daltons Premium Bulb Fertiliser once again to support them in bulking up their stores for next season.

Pests and diseases

Bulbs in general are typically free of pests and diseases. However when buying, always check them carefully for any rotten, misshapen or soft bulbs. If you dig up your bulbs or re-pot, discard any diseased or soft bulbs.

If you are experiencing issues with bulbs in your garden, such as no flowers etc, our helpful Q&A's provide helpful advice and solutions.