Bulbs are one of the most varied and exciting plant ranges we can use in our garden. Highly versatile and great in the ground or containers they provide colour, impact and food for pollinators whether you have a garden, a yard, a balcony or window box.

At Woodthorpe Plant Shop we are big fans and think bulbs are an essential part of every garden.

The huge variety brings it challenges however, with much confusion around exactly what bulbs are and when and where they should be planted.

This blog aims to simplify bulb care providing a clear guide on;

  1. The different types of bulbs
  2. What bulbs to plant when
  3. How deep to plant bulbs
  4. Where to plant bulbs
  5. Planting Ideas
  6. How to care for bulbs



‘Bulb’ is used as a catch all word to describe many plants that have underground structures that store the food and energy they require for growth.

There are 4 main types of bulb.

  1. True bulbs – garlic, onions, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, Dutch iris, lilies, alliums

The traditional type of bulb, rounded, pointed at the top with a flat base from which the roots grow. When cut open they are made up of fleshy layers.

  1. Corms – crocus, gladioli, freesia

Very similar to true bulbs, the key differences are they are frequently furry or hairy and when cut open are solid.

  1. Tubers – begonias, anemones, cyclamen, potatoes, dahlia

Swollen, usually underground, parts of a stem or root. They have visible buds that can produce new plants.

  1. Rhizomes – anemone nemorosa, canna, iris

Creeping swollen root-like structures that are adapted stems. Roots, stems with leaves and flowers are produced along its length.



In general bulbs can be categorised into 3 distinct groups, spring flowering bulbs, autumn flowering bulbs and summer flowering bulbs.

Each category is planted at different times of the year.

As a general guide the graphic below highlights the most common bulbs and their correct planting time.

TOP TIP – read the packets/ instructions that come with your bulbs to confirm the exact planting time



The general rule of thumb is to plant bulbs 3 times their depth, be aware however, there are exceptions, many rhizomes like border iris for example need to be planted on the soil surface.

The graphic is a quick guide to the planting depth of the most common bulbs.

TOP TIP – read the packets/ instructions that come with your bulbs to confirm the exact planting depth.



The amazing thing about bulbs is due to their vast variety there is a bulb for every possible garden situation.

Full sun, damp, dry, shade, you will find a bulb that fits.

Most bulbs grow wonderfully in containers making them a valuable addition to hanging baskets and planters.

Top Tip – a simple Google search will help you identify bulbs that suit your garden and help you build a suitable shopping list.



Woodland Planting – spring bulbs are highly suited to woodland environments, they grow, flower, and die back before the tree leaves grow obscuring the light. Now most of us don’t have woodlands in our gardens but we do have trees and shrubs that lose their leaves in winter so are highly suitable for spring bulb underplanting.

Natural Planting – many bulbs particularly spring ones look wonderful naturalised in lawns. To get the most natural look, mix your chosen bulbs together, grab a handful, throw them in the air and plant where they land.

Bulb Lasagne – a great way to pack a real flower filled punch when space is limited. Layer your chosen bulbs in a large pot according to planting depth. Choose bulbs that flower across a long period of time to get the most from your pot. Add a couple of plants to the top to add to the magic.

Container Planting – mixed or single variety pots can be moved around your garden to add impact and create highlights.

Indoor Planting – several bulbs like amaryllis, paperwhite daffodils and hyacinth can be grown indoors to flower for Christmas. This process is called forcing. Plant bulbs and leave them outside for 8 -10 weeks, bringing them in will then kick start flowering.



The great news is that most bulbs are extremely low maintenance. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to get the most from your bulbs and keep them flowering year after year.

Watering - All bulbs need plenty of water while in growth, and for around six weeks after flowering until the leaves die back. Summer-flowering bulbs may need water during hot dry spells.

Feeding - To promote healthy plants and great flowers, feed bulbs every week with a high-potassium fertiliser such as a liquid tomato, seaweed, or comfrey feed. Start feeding as soon as shoots appear, and stop feeding once the foliage starts to die down at the end of the season

Deadheading - Cut off fading flowers at the base of the flower stalk.

With true bulbs and corms like daffodils and tulips, this won’t promote more flowers, but it will stop the plant wasting energy making seeds and focus its efforts on storing energy in the bulb ready for next year’s display.

With tubers and rhizomes, such as dahlias and cyclamen, regular deadheading will encourage continuous, long flowering.

Cutting back leaves – wait to cut back leaves until six weeks after flowering finishes. You’ll know it’s the right time when the leaves turn yellow and look like straw.

Never tie up or knot the leaves, as this can hinder flower production the following year.

Overwintering – spring and autumn flowering bulbs are largely hardy which means they can tolerate low winter temperatures and can be left in the garden all year round.

Summer bulbs like dahlias and cannas are far more tender and need to be protected through the winter. You can leave the bulbs in the ground and cover with a thick layer of compost to prevent the frost reaching them or you can lift, dry them and store over winter in a frost-free environment.

The thing most summer bulbs dislike is sitting in wet, cold ground. So, if your soil is heavy and very damp throughout the winter months then lifting and storing is the best option for you.

Rejuvenating old bulbs – as clumps of bulbs grow older, they become less productive and flower less. It’s good practice to dig up and divide clumps every 2 or 3 years. This reinvigorates them and guarantees strong flower displays for years to come.


We hope you found our guide useful. You may also enjoy our blog on HOW TO CARE FOR SPRING BULBS.

If you have any questions you can contact us through our Facebook or Instagram and if you want to talk in more detail pop into our Shop where our expert staff will be on hand to help. In fact there is nothing we like more than talking all things plants. We're open every day from 10am to 4pm.

Look forward to seeing you soon, in the meantime HAPPY GARDENING!