How to: plant and grow spring flowering bulbs in borders and containers

tulips view david domoney's guide to seeds and bulbs

Bulbs are energy powerhouses that bloom year after year. They store the energy like a battery over winter and erupt into flower in spring.

Bulbs are brilliant because they are foolproof plants – hardly anything can go wrong with them. Plant them too deep, too shallow or even upside down and they will still flower.

muscari or grape hyacinths grow well in pots and have upright blue flower heads

They are also a great investment. If cared for properly, they will spread and give you more plants and more flowers every year.

Bulbs are incredibly versatile – they work great in the border to fill in the gaps around other flowers and shrubs, or even growing up through your lawn in spring. They are also excellent in containers for indoors or outdoors.

Spring-flowering bulbs

yellow-daffodil bulbs for spring

Everyone has heard of the big four spring-flowering bulbs – Tulips, Crocus, Daffodils and Hyacinths. They brighten up your garden after winter.

For the best effect, plant them in groups of the same colour for impact. At least six bulbs should give a good show.

You can also arrange them by height. Plant tall tulips at the back of the display, then daffodils and finally crocus in front.


Crocus and daffodils are especially popular naturalised under the lawn. Simply dig up your turf in autumn, plant the bulbs and lay the grass back down. They will push up in spring for a burst of colour.

But there are other great varieties. Snowdrops are perfect for shady spots under trees, and muscari look elegant in containers too.

How to plant bulbs


Bulbs are not that fussy but they will flower better if you give them the right conditions. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil – the only thing bulbs can’t stand is excess water. It causes them to rot.

Most bulbs like to be planted two to three times as deep as they are tall. Once you have dug your hole, line the base with a layer of grit or sand. Then plant the bulb using the ‘light bulb’ technique – push and twist it into the soil.


If you simply place the bulb on the surface, you could leave a gap for rainwater to collect, which could rot the bulb.

Make sure you plant the bulb the right way up – if in doubt, plant sideways!

Space the bulbs about two widths apart. If you have trouble with squirrels digging them up as a snack, grate a little soap into the hole to deter them. Then fill in with soil and water in.

Plant a bulb container in layers


One of the most popular ways to plant bulbs in a container is to use layers to create the ‘lasagne’ effect. Start with a layer of gritty compost at the bottom, then add a layer of daffodil bulbs, spaced slightly further apart than usual.

Cover those with a layer of compost so you can just see the bulb tips, then add tulip bulbs in the spaces between the daffodil bulbs. Add more compost as before, and then plant crocus or muscari bulbs on top. Cover with a thicker layer of compost and water in.

All three varieties will push up together in the spring to give a dense, striking display.

Bulbs are some of the easiest garden plants to grow, so get them in the ground now and let nature get on with it over winter!



  1. Aden Dowey July 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    Nice post. I have garden and I want to plant a bulbs. I agree with you that Crocus and daffodils are especially popular naturalised under the lawn. There are lots of lawn in my garden so Crocus and daffodils will be the best for my garden. Definitely, I will plant them in my garden.

  2. Pauline Jordan November 5, 2015 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    I do gardening therapy sessions with dementia patients and they love the lasagne bulb planting. Last year it was a show stopper so i highly recommend it.

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