How to plant bulbs in the green

2nd Feb 2023 | Growing Advice

What are bulbs in the green?

Bulbs in the green are actively growing flower bulbs. Snowdrop bulbs, bluebell bulbs, narcissus bulbs, wild garlic and anemones.

Usually planted in autumn as a dormant bulb, it can be more successful to buy them in spring once the root system and foliage have developed. Many small bulbs can struggle over winter. This is not because of the cold but because the bulbs have been out of the ground for a long time.

The bulb cycle

A bulb is a storage unit of moisture and nutrients which help the flowers develop in spring. Once the flower has finished its flowering cycle it goes in to a dormant period. The foliage has put energy back into a newly formed bulb. This bulb will sit in the soil inactive until late winter.

Plants like the snowdrop bulb are lifted in summer and sorted out by size. Then they are shipped to a supplier such as ourselves. Before you get to plant them, the dormant bulbs may have been out of the ground for 3 months. This doesn’t affect most larger bulbs like tulip bulbs because they can store more of the starchy substance that keeps them alive.

Every bulb counts!

As a small bulb, the snowdrop can dry out during this period. They may also quickly develop mould if they are kept in damp conditions with no air flow. This is particularly noticeable in fleshy bulbs such as the bluebell bulb. Fortunately, we take great care of our bulbs in the warehouse. We have numerous ways to keep the right amount of moisture and airflow. However, nothing substitutes a well-draining soil.

This is why, although we do our best to keep bulbs in great condition, it is better to plant them in the green. As a gardener you want your bulbs to be successful. By buying bulbs in the green you are purchasing bulbs that have survived the dormant period. Therefore, each bulb should produce flowers. And that’s what you want!

The tricky bit

It’s really easy to plant dormant bulbs. There are endless videos of people explaining how to plant bulbs. But the truth is, you can just dig a small hole and pop them in. They will be fine.

It gets a bit tricker when they are already growing.

You will have around 10cm of foliage, sometimes more, growing out of the top of the bulb. You can’t just dig a hole and cover them over because the foliage will not get any sunlight.

There are two ways to plant bulbs in the green

Firstly, use a dibber and position each one in an individual hole. You will be able to see how deep they need to go by the white mark on the neck. This is where the bulb has previously been underground. 8-10cm will be deep enough.

Secondly, if you have lots to do, it is better to plant them 5-10 at a time by creating an envelope with your spade. Space the bulbs 2-3 cm apart and position them in the incision. Push the soil back gently.

You can probably expect to plant 1000 bulbs in less than 30 mins this way. Depending on how methodical you are!

Caring for your bulbs in the green

Do not leave the bulbs in the bags for too long, try to plant them within a couple of days of receiving them. Make sure the box is open and there is air flow to each pack we send, this is especially important later in spring when the weather begins to warm up.

The trick for most bulbs is keeping them moist but not water logged. Soil allows a small amount of air around the bulb to prevent them from rotting. The residual moisture in the soil keeps them from drying out.

After planting, the bulbs in the green will need watering well. They will have lost quite a lot of moisture between lifting and planting.

Bulbs don’t need to be fed when you plant them, although it can be beneficial when the flowers have finished, to give the new bulbs a better chance to feed up before they become dormant.

The foliage is hardy, and spring bulbs can withstand the cold weather, so don’t worry about frosts.

Where do I plant bulbs in the green?

These are mostly native bulbs that love woodland or wild spots with rich soil that isn’t too wet, they can grow very happily in semi shaded positions.

These are naturalising bulbs, which means they will spread if you leave them to go to seed. It takes a long time for the seeds to develop but once they start, they will create beautiful natural spring carpet of colour. It takes a number of years for bulbs in the green to establish but they are without doubt a wonder of the UK Isles!

They are not easy bulbs to cultivate in fields commercially. Many of these bulbs are from wild stocks lifted under license in the UK, it is illegal to lift bulbs from the wild, but estate owners can make agreements with labourers to thin out crops on their land. It’s hard work to lift them and each pack has to be counted by hand too!

Bulbs in the green are truly exclusive bulbs for a short, but magical season.

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    How to plant bulbs in the green