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Planting too early: one of the biggest mistakes people make with bulbs

We are now well in to September, which probably means that lots of people have already bought their bulbs ready for planting in the autumn.

Many people tend to use the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August to visit their local garden centre and purchase their bulbs reading for planting.  

Unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make with planting bulbs is that after buying or receiving their bulbs, either over the Bank Holiday weekend or at the beginning of September, they then tend to plant them straight away. Some have the urge to do so even easier – placing orders for bulbs in July, and expecting to receive their bulbs and plant them in July.

This is probably a natural reaction – after all, you have bought your bulbs and feel that you should get them in the ground immediately because that is where they should be. Naturally you might feel that they shouldn’t be out of the soil, they should be in their correct environment, like cut flowers should be put in to a vase of water as soon as you bring them home.

However, we would strongly encourage you to resist this urge and be patient! It is not safe to plant your bulbs that early. Although the nights and the mornings are now noticeably darker and it has cooled down so much that you have to put your heating on for half an hour a day, that doesn’t mean that the soil is cool enough for bulbs yet. You should not plant bulbs whilst the soil temperature is still too warm, as by doing so you effectively end up “cooking” your bulbs. The temperature of the soil will impact on the flowering performance of the product, leading to at best deformities in the flower, and at worst the flower not growing at all.

So, when should you be planting your flower bulbs? Well, broadly, the very earliest you should be planting bulbs is September, but for some bulbs it should be later. In part it depends on what the temperature is like outside and what the soil temperature is like. One September might be particularly cool and autumnal, whilst another one might see a late summer and very hot weather and soil conditions.

It also depends on the product that you are planting, as there are different characteristics to different flower bulb types. Most people don’t realise it, but although flower bulbs are referred to as such and all grouped together under the same name, they are different types of products – so flower bulbs can actually be bulbs, tubers, corms or rhizomes, all of which are different, and all of which grow differently.  

So, make sure you know what the recommendations are for the product you are planting. For example, tulip bulbs can be planted from late September all the way through until early January, whereas snowdrops can be planted from September until mid-November at the very latest, as they start decomposing after this from losing moisture. We have advice sections for different types of bulbs on our website, as well as gardening jobs for each month of the year to help you.

A handy tip if you’re not sure if the soil is too warm or not is to plant deeper, as it is better to plant bulbs too deep than too shallow. If you plant bulbs at a depth that is too shallow then it is more likely that, because they are higher up, the soil will be warmer and the bulbs will get “cooked”. So, if you were planting daffodil bulbs, which should be planted around 15cm down, it would be better to plant them 20cm down than to plant them 10cm down.

If you need more help with planting bulbs then please contact us. Boston Bulbs Wholesale is a privately owned business with over 35 years experience of importing only the finest quality horticultural products throughout Europe and from farmers and growers all over the UK. Whether you’re a landscaper, nursery, local authority, wholesaler, retailer, private business or individual gardener, just give us a call on 01775 769 333 or visit for help with flower bulbs, grass seed and more.

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