Top 3 spring flowering bulbs โ€“ Tulips, Irises and Alliums

Irises growing in forest

The sight of spring flowers peeping through the ground really lifts the spirits after a long dark winter. Spring flowering bulbs bring colour to garden borders and outdoor plant pots when little else wants to show itself above the cold soil. This is why we love spring flowering bulbs so much, so read on to discover why we have chosen Tulips, Alliums and Irises as our top 3 spring flowering bulbs and how you too can create bright and beautiful garden borders that are blooming with colourful spring flowers. We sell a huge variety of Spring Flowering Bulbs in our Bulb Market online and in-store and with several hundred varieties on offer, you can always find something that will fit the bill perfectly for your garden or outside space.

When is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs?

Timing is everything. To make sure you get the earliest show, autumn is the best season to plant spring flowering bulbs to allow them to develop their root system, which in turn allows them to flower in spring rather than summer. Crocus, Alliums, Narcissus and most other Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in September to October, but Tulips can wait until November.

How to plant spring flowering bulbs

Choose high quality bulbs that catch your eye and plant them in the Autumn, before the ground becomes frozen hard as nails. Select a well-drained location with plenty of sunlight, as most spring bulbs prefer full sun.

Decide upon whether you would like to plant them in the ground, for a natural look, or in outdooor plant pots or containers, which are great to add height and group flowers together, creating interest on a patio or around the house. We recommend using containers with good drainage, such as Yorkshire Flowerpots, to avoid waterlogged conditions, which can rot the bulbs. The Ribbed Medium sized Yorkshire Flowerpots are a popular option as they are frost-proof, designed to last a lifetime, with a width that is perfect for growing bulbs.

Yorkshire Flowerpots Ribbed Medium
Medium Ribbed Yorkshire Flowerpots offer the correct drainage for bulbs
Westland Bone meal 10kg Bucket
Westland Bone Meal Fertiliser enhances soil structure and boosts root growth
Miracle Gro Peat Free Premium Bulb Fibre 20 Litres
Miracle-Gro Peat Free Premium Bulb Fibre feeds roots for 3 months

Ensure the soil is well-drained and loose to prevent waterlogging. You can amend heavy clay or sandy soil with organic matter like compost to improve its structure and fertility. Westland Miracle-Gro Peat Free Premium Bulb Fibre, is a compost which feeds for up to 3 months, encourages root growth and helps bulbs regenerate for the following year.

Before planting, you can give your bulbs their favourite meal by incorporating a slow-release bulb fertiliser into the soil according to the package instructions. We recommend Westland Bone Meal Fertilser which enhances soil structure and also boosts root growth. Another effective slow-release fertiliser is Westland Growmore Complete Garden Fertiliser, which produces abundant foliage, whilst Vitax 6X Chicken Manure is a 100% natural highly concentrated fertiliser, that is six to eight times richer than traditional farmyard manure, and is popular with gardeners that want a natural solution to feed a large planted area.

Dig a deep hole, 2-3 times the height of the bulb and plop in the bulbs, giving them plenty of space between to flaunt their fabulousness. This can be made easier by using one of our Bulb Planter Tools. After planting the bulbs, water them thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture.

How to care for spring flowering bulbs

Caring for spring flowering bulbs is simple and can ensure beautiful blooms year after year. Here are some general guidelines to help you get your green thumbs going:

Spring bulbs require consistent moisture during their active growth period. Hydrate like a hero, especially if there is a dry spell. However, avoid overwatering as it can result in rot. Organic mulch such as shredded bark or straw retains moisture and is like giving your bulbs a cosy blanket to snuggle under during chilly nights. Mulch also helps keeps the weeds at bay so your bulbs can shine through uninhibited.

We recommend mulching with Westland Composted Bark which protects plant roots from extreme temperatures. Farmyard Manure is another mulch option, which is 100% natural and improves soil condition, providing plants with a rich natural source of organic matter and humus.

Westland Composted Bark 70 Litres
Westland Composted Bark helps protect plant roots from extreme temperatures
Vitax 6X Pelleted Chicken Fertiser 8kg
Vitax 6X Chicken Manure is six times more powerful than farmyard manure
Westland Farmyard Manure 50 litres
Westland Farmyard Manure makes a nutrient-rich mulch

In early spring when you see the first shoots emerging, you can apply a balanced fertiliser to provide nutrients for healthy growth and flowering. A good liquid feed to use when watering is Vitax Q4 All Purpose Liquid Plant Food which optimises uptake of nutrients to produce bigger plants with more flowers. Follow the recommended dosage on the fertiliser package.

Now sit back and watch the magic unfold! Spring flowers will grace your garden with their stunning blooms in the springtime.

Our top 3 spring flowering bulbs

So now you know how to look after them, here are our top 3 spring flowering bulbs. These are the three most popular bulbs in the garden centre because as well as creating an impressive display in the garden, these spring flowering bulbs are the evergreen showstoppers of the flower kingdom, having rightfully earned the title of Perennial Performers. These resilient beauties grace our gardens year after year, enchanting us with their colorful blooms and captivating presence.

Allium Bulbs

Alliums, also known as ornamental onions, come in many bulb varieties, which all produce an explosion of colour in shades of blue, purple, mauve, pink, and white. Each variety has different sized architectural globe shaped heads which help to create a spectacular display. We enjoy experimenting with different colours or head sizes to create magnificent accents within the same border.

Alliums growing outdoors

Alliums are easy to grow and can be planted from August onwards, for flowers in May to June. For best results, plant Allium bulbs in a sunny sheltered site to avoid the flower stems getting blown over. Allium stems can grow at different heights, depending on the variety, so it’s best to plant taller alliums towards the rear or middle of a garden border where they can stand above shorter plants or shrubs. Larger Alliums can be supported using metal plant supports to prevent them from drooping. Smaller-flowered alliums look impressive when planted in clumps near the front of garden borders.

Alliums are perfect to cut, dry and use for stunning effect in vases around the house. These dried flowers can be kept and sprayed to match your Christmas colour scheme, which makes a unique sculptural seasonal decoration.

Iris reticulata Bulbs

Iris reticulata is the classic flower that springs to mind when thinking of Irises. Also known as early bulbous iris, they produce colourful, lightly scented blooms in early spring between February and March. They prefer a nice sunny spot or a partially shaded area in well-drained soil.

Irises Indoors lifestyle

For best results, plant the bulbs in late summer or in early autumn at least 5-10 cm apart, at twice their own depth.  Iris reticulata have pale blue to deep violet blooms with central yellow splashes down the middle of each petal, which makes them perfect for growing at the front of a sunny garden border or amongst rockeries.

They can also be grown in pots so their vibrant colours and markings can be appreciated close to the house. Terracotta bowls make a stunning container for planting Iris reticulata. Once planted, the soil can be top dressed with Kelkayโ€™s RHS Horticultural Grit or RHS Horticultural Gravel, for a handsome, professional-looking finish.

Tulip Bulbs

Known as the Queens of Spring, or the Jewels of the Garden, Tulips are also often referred to by their botanical name, Tulipa and here at Gates they have a very special place in our hearts. Tulips are recognised as symbols of love, elegance, and beauty which could help explain why they are so appealing. Their distinctive shape and range of vibrant colors have made them one of the most popular and recognisable flowers around the world.

Kapiteyn Tulips Growing in Pots

Tulips are sun-worshippers and thrive on at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, so avoid planting them in those shady corners of the garden. Tulips look their best at the front of borders, gathered together by colour-group. Like Alliums, we love experimenting with vibrant pools of different coloured blooms which really makes a garden sing in the spring. Tulips can also be used as colourful fresh cut flowers from your own garden, to have around the house at springtime, or to give as a thoughtful home-grown gift to a friend or loved-one.

Not only do they shine in garden beds, but Tulips also know how to steal the spotlight in containers. Whether you have a small balcony or a grand patio, Tulips are the perfect spring flowers to adorn an outdoor space. Delivering a burst of color and elegance, potted Tulips will turn an ordinary container into a dazzling centerpiece. From their regal stature to their captivating hues, Tulips are natureโ€™s enduring masterpiece that never fail to leave us in awe.

How to maintain spring flowering bulbs

Here are some quick tips for post-blooming care of spring bulbs.

After the flowers fade, remove the spent blooms by cutting the flower stalk at the base. Deadheading prevents the plant from wasting energy on seed production and encourages it to focus on bulb development.

Azalea Rustic Terracotta Bowl in use
The Azalea Rustic Terracotta Bowl is a good size for growing Irises on patios
Tom Chambers Garden Delight Single Stem Support 450x450
A droopy Allium can be propped up with the Tom Chambers Single Stem Support
Gardman Green Jute Twine 250g
Gardman Green Jute Twine can be used for tying up foliage

Allow the foliage to yellow and wither naturally after flowering. During this period, the plant is replenishing energy in the bulb for the next yearโ€™s blooms. Refrain from cutting until it has completely died back. You can tie up the foliage with Raffia or Jute Twine to keep them looking tidy and camouflage the declining foliage by planting other perennials or annuals nearby.

Over time, some spring bulbs may become crowded, resulting in decreased flowering. Separating and transplanting the siblings can help rejuvenate them. Wait until the foliage has completely died back, usually in summer or early fall, and carefully dig up the bulbs. Separate the offsets or bulblets from the parent bulb and replant them at the appropriate depth in a new location or share them around with friends and family. It is vital to feed replanted bulbs with Bone Meal to help the roots replenish.

Gardening is all about having fun, so enjoy the process and let your bulbs bloom with personality. Be patient, provide them with the care they need, and theyโ€™ll reward you with a show-stopping performance year after year.

Summary

If youโ€™re looking to create a beautiful spring garden for next year, let your creativity bloom and choose bulbs which offer colour, structure and interest. 

Here at Gates Garden Centre, we sell a fantastic collection of bulbs from suppliers such as Prins, Taylors and Kapiteyn. As well as all our Tulips, Irises and Alliums bulbs, we also offer a fantastic range of other spring bulbs including lots of different examples of Narcissi Daffodils and Crocus as well as Bluebells, Snowdrops, Fritillaria, Anemone and Muscari Hyacinth bulbs for sale.

Prins Iris reticulata 15 Bulbs
Prins Dwarf Iris reticulata
Taylors Ice Cream Tulips
Taylors Ice Cream Tulips
Kapiteyn Perfect Combinations Alliums
Kapiteyn Allium ‘Large Ball Blend’ Combination Mix

Our Plant Specialists are on hand to answer any questions or provide tips and advice to help you create the perfect spring garden border, rockery or container. You can find an extensive range of bulb varieties in The Bulb Market here at Gates Garden Centre. We have everything you need to get planting. Alternatively, you can shop for spring flowering bulbs, bulb compost, fertiliser plus potting & planting tools online.

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