Flower bulb buying guide

Flower bulb buying guide

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

51 guides

Flower bulbs, such as tulips to dahlias, should be chosen with care depending on the amount of sun in your garden and the type of soil you have. Some bulbs will flower in autumn, others in spring or summer. From flowers for sunny spots or blooms for partial shade, read on to find the perfect bulbs for your garden.

Important features

  • Soil type
  • Sun exposure
  • Plant
  • Flowering
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Bulbs are underground structures that store all the nutrients a flower needs to grow. This structure allows the plant to survive the non-flowering season and start putting out vegetation once again when it emerges from its resting state. For example, spring bulbs can be bought from the start of autumn. These bulbs can go in the ground from any point from the end of September to around mid-November, before the first frost hits.  Bulb growing is easy and can be tackled by any home gardener. Here are a few benefits of growing bulbs:

  • they are easy to care for and don't require a great deal of gardening knowledge to grow;
  • they are perennial meaning they will flower a number of times;
  • they are cold-hardy and will cope well with sub-zero temperatures;
  • they come in a wide number of varieties – there's no shortage of choice when it comes to picking a bulb!

Bulbs can be split into two broad categories.

Spring-flowering bulbs 

These bulbs are planted in the middle of autumn and will only flower the following spring after the last of the frost has cleared. Some spring-flowering bulbs include daffodils and tulips.

Summer-flowering bulbs 

Planted in the spring, these bulbs will bloom over the course of the summer. This group includes things like lilies and dahlias which will flower from May to September.

When it comes to picking a bulb, you will have to think through a few factors. To avoid investing in bulbs that will never bloom in your garden, it's important to understand the environment you are going to be planting them in. Simply make your pick with the following criteria in mind:

  1. The amount of sunlight in your garden: like all other plants, flowers all have different requirements in terms of sunlight. Some flowers, such as spring snowflake, prefer the shade while others, like irises, need full sun.
  2. Garden wind exposure.
  3. Rainfall and humidity: watering should be adjusted to the amount of natural rainfall the plant will receive.
  4. Soil type (i.e. sandy, clay, etc.) or type of potting soil.

In short, you need to make sure you are buying the right bulbs for your garden. If you want anything to grow, it's important to know exactly what kind of land you have.

If you want your bulbs to thrive, you'll have to pick the right ones. Here are a few tips from seasoned gardeners to help you make your choice:

  1. Don't get drawn in by sales that seem too good to be true: these promotions are usually just marketing ploys to get rid of stocks!
  2. Feel the bulbs and select them as you would an onion. Bulbs should be firm and shouldn't yield to the touch.
  3. Any bulbs covered with mould or brown marks should be cast aside.
  4. Pick the biggest bulbs available: the larger they are, they more flowers they will produce.
  5. Don't buy any bulbs that are not fully dormant; avoid purchasing any that are starting to sprout as you risk disrupting the natural cycle of the plant when it goes in the ground.
  6. Go for a shop with a wide selection so you can really pick the best bulbs for your garden.

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Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford, 51 guides

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

From a background in waste transportation, I became a farmer specializing in organic market gardening. A graduate of a professional baccalaureate in Agronomy and Horticultural Production, I tried for several years as a young farmer to settle in the beautiful region of Oxford.   After many disappointments, I finally started a small-business in home services, specifically in gardening, assisted by my loving, dear husband. Passionate about nature and wild edible plants, I am very attentive to ecological solutions and respectful of our environment in all aspects of my daily life.   From the vegetable garden to the flower beds, from seed to harvest, I have all kinds of advice up my sleeve. Do not hesitate to ask me your questions.

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