How to grow spring bulbs

Picture of spring bulbs - tulipsThe most wonderful sight in spring is the rows of flowering spring bulbs throughout the gardens and roadsides of Ireland. Bulbs are an easy and inexpensive way of bringing much needed colour to your garden in spring.

Spring bulbs can be planted anytime from late September to December. They are hardy in frosty conditions.


Check to see if the bulbs are a uniform size, free of dirt and have no mould. Discard if it shows any sign of damage. Plant the bulbs as soon as possible after buying.

Location and soil

Most bulbs need a sunny location with good free draining soil. Some varieties do well in shaded areas like around trees. Snowdrops (Galantus), Dog’s-tooth violet (Erythronium), Anemone blanda and Crocus tommasinianus are good choices. Look for the name woodland for other varieties that suit shade.

Bulbs can be planted in areas that will be occupied by summer flowers. Simply lift the bulbs up and store.


Work the soil before planting, fork up, clearing any roots and break up clumps. A general rule is to dig three times the depth of the bulb. The bulb should face with the tip pointing upwards. Cover the bulb with loose soil. Don’t compact the soil too tight or the bulb won’t be able to push through.

Drift planting is when you throw the bulbs freely and plant where they land. It creates a natural pattern instead of rigid lines. Planting bulbs symmetrically looks unnatural and creates an issue if some bulbs don’t grow.

Planting in grass

Choose varieties that will be dead by the time the grass has to be mowed or pick a spot that can be navigated around. Mow the grass as shortly as possible before planting.

For a large placement of small bulbs, score out a square/rectangular pattern with a spade, leaving one line uncut. Make sure the depth is three times the bulb. Gently open the turf flap and fork up the soil. Place the bulbs inside and cover up with the grass lid, firming it with your foot

Bulb planters

Bulb planters are a cheap and worthwhile investment. It has measurements on the side to allow you to plant to the preferred depth. Use the planter to pull out the turf plug. Take the plug and break up the soil underneath. Put the bulb in the loose soil and place the turf lid back over it firmly.

Hand trowel

Picture of a hand trowelUsing a hand trowel, dig a small hole, three times the depth of the bulb. Place the bulb in the soil, pointy side up and fill over with loose soil. Water well after planting.

Stick planting

Small bulbs can be planted by piercing the ground with a sharp stick. Use a garden fork to create multiple small holes and fill in with soil.


Use an all-purpose fertiliser on your bulbs about six weeks before flowering. If the weather is dry after three days of planting, water well. Don’t forget to water in any dry, hot spells, which should be rare over winter.


Deadheading is when you remove the flower of the bulb after it has reached the end of flowering. Its stops the flower going to seed and keeps all the energy in the bulb for the following year’s growth. Deadhead after about six weeks of the end of bloom when the flower is wilted and dying.

To deadhead snip the head off with a scissor or pinch with your fingers. Deadhead all the big bulbs like tulip and daffodils.

Growing bulbs in containers

Bulbs can be easily grown in containers. Pick a container with a big enough depth. When the bulb has flowered and died, take them out of the pots and store.


PIcture of snowdrop flowersSnowdrops

Snowdrops are a beautiful white flower with a drooped white head. They grow to 30cm in height. They can grow in a shaded spot, around trees is ideal.  Sow from September to December for a bloom of January to April. The bulbs are quite small and are difficult to establish.


PIcture of crocus flowersCrocus

They come in many colours- purple, white and yellow. They thrive in a sunny location and well-drained soil. Crocus is the source of the most expensive spice in the world: saffron.


Picture of daffodilsDaffodil

A common sight to see in spring, they are incredibly easy to grow. They can grow in a semi-shaded location but do well in sun. Daffodils will come back every year for 4-5 years. They are available in white, yellow and orange colours.


Pictures of tulipsTulip

Sow tulips from September to December, preferably in November. They usually flower between April and June. Tulips need a sunny location, well-drained soil and shelter. Tulips rarely flower in the second year so are better lifted and discarded or replanted. They are available in most colours.



Find more flowers in our Plant Encyclopedia

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