On receipt of bulbs remove them from their packaging and check them for quality, the bulbs should feel firm when gently pressed, discard any diseased bulbs.
Occasionally you may find a few bulbs that are very small compared to others in the batch, these are better treated separately, rather than face the disappointment of them not flowering at the same time as the rest of the bulbs.
These can be grown on in pots or in a nursery bed for planting out the following year.
Bulbs should be planted out into their final flowering position as soon as possible after receipt.
If this is not possible, keep in a cool dry place until you are ready for planting.
Bulbs are best grown in fertile well-drained soil, in a warm, sunny position.
Top dress the bed with a general fertiliser and rake it into the soil prior to planting.
On heavy soils e.g. Clay soils, place a handful of grit in the planting hole prior to placing the bulb to improve drainage.
Adding grit to the backfill will also help.
Spacing and Planting depth:
A rule of thumb when planting bulbs is to space them by about five times their own width.
For example; 25mm (1") bulb would be spaced out at about 125mm (5") centres when planted.
Larger bulbs should be planted to three times their own width, e.g. 50mm (2") bulb = 150mm (6") apart.
For natural effects, scatter the bulbs randomly and plant where they fall.
This is the best way to plant them if you are naturalising them.
The planting depth of bulbs should be two or three times the depth of the bulb.
By planting at the recommended depth, taller varieties will need less staking and support from sticks and twines.
If you find that bulbs get in the way when planting out a follow on crop of bedding plants, as sometimes can happen, try planting out a cluster of bulbs (3-5) at 300mm (12") centres in a chevron pattern.
When these bulbs flower they will create a drift of flowers, then when they are cut down after flowering, you will find you can plant out your bedding plants between the clumps without interfering with the bulbs.
Subject to the quantity of bedding plants you plant, these too will form a drift.
Dig a planting hole suitable for the size of the bulb.
Lay a bed of coarse sand in the base of the hole for the bulb to sit on, this will improve drainage and give added protection against fungal diseases.
Push the bulb well into the hole to avoid any air pockets below the bulb as this can cause rotting.
Replace the soil into the hole, mixing in some grit if the soil is heavy.
Water in well, and continue to water but only lightly, as the soil should never become waterlogged.
Initially bulbs don't need any fertiliser but it is advisable to give them a weak feed every 3-4 weeks.
Just prior to flowering (bud stage) give the plants a full strength high potash feed, this will ensure they are fully prepared and ripened for the following years display.
See below for planting in the green.
Water well after planting, this should be sufficient to keep them moist until they produce shoots.
Further watering should not be required unless conditions are exceptionally dry as could be the case with containerised bulbs.
Over watering can cause fungal disease and rotting.
Regular removal of dead flower heads will improve their vigour and preserve their energy for next year as energy will not be wasted on seed production.
Do not cut down the foliage or tie it in knots.
Allow the dying foliage of your bulbs to die back completely before removing.
Sadly the decaying foliage will look unattractive but it is essential to do this as this will ensure that the bulbs perform well the following year.
A rough guide as to when they can be cut down is six weeks after flowering, or in some cultivars the tips of the leaves will yellow meaning the leaves are virtually spent so leaving them on will not do much more good.
This does not apply to Tulips.
Pests and Diseases:
Bulbs are generally free from pests and disease.
The most common problems can be rots and fungal growths on stored bulbs.
Plant bulbs as soon as possible to avoid this, or dust with a recommended fungicide prior to any storage period.
Always discard bulbs at lifting or planting time that are soft or show signs of infestation.
Bulbs may sometimes fail to flower as they become overcrowded in later years, in this case you should lift and divide the clumps and replant with more spacing.
Bulbs supplied in the green:
Basically what this means is the bulbs have produced young shoots and are therefore more advanced than normal bulbs.
The most common examples are Snowdrops and Bluebells.
On arrival make sure that the roots are damp, if they seem dry, immerse the roots (not bulbs) in a tray of clean water and allow them to stand for an hour or so before planting.
If unable to plant immediately, stand in a cool, well lit place out of direct sun and don't allow the roots to dry out.
When planting do not remove any foliage attached to the bulbs, as this will die away naturally during the summer.