A great advantage of bulbs and corms is that many flower in late winter or early spring, bringing colour and fragrance into the garden when little else is in bloom. Also many summer flowering varieties, such as Crocosmia and Gladioli, provide spectacular displays that are difficult to match.
Bulbs and corms are relatively inexpensive and one of the easiest of all plants to grow. They can be grown anywhere in the garden - in hanging baskets, window boxes, pots, containers, in the borders or naturalised in the lawn. In fact you can grow bulbs almost anywhere if the conditions are right. One important thing to remember is that all bulbs need good drainage wherever you plant them. If not, they can rot very quickly in waterlogged conditions.
The main difference between corms and bulbs is that corms replace themselves each year. Some of the most popular corms grown in English Gardens are Crocus, Crocosmia, Freesias, Corn Lilies and Gladioli.
Different bulbs are suited to different situations, though the majority of them will grow well in any ordinary well-drained soil. Almost all bulbs will rot in waterlogged ground, so it's worth improving the conditions of heavy soil with plenty of grit, sharp sand and add some organic enrichment; such as leafmould, home made compost or a peat free commercial compost before planting.
Like any other garden plant, bulbs require regular feeding. However, overcrowding and/or too much feed can cause leafy growth at the expense of flowers.
Outdoor bulbs that are naturalised should be left to die down naturally once the flowers have finished. Unless you are collecting seed, cut off all dead flower heads as soon as they have faded. This will ensure that all the energy is put back into the bulb ready for flowers the next year. Continue to water and feed the leaves, and only remove the foliage once it has totally withered. Cutting back the leaves too early can prevent the bulb building-up reserves for next season. If the area looks too untidy you can always lift the plants and move them to another area of the garden or grow companion plant that will grow up through the foliage to provide added interest.
You can normally buy bulbs in late summer or early autumn from garden and nursery centres. When choosing bulbs make sure that they feel firm and show no signs of bruising or mildew. You can also order bulbs directly from suppliers from thier annual catalogues. Plant your bulbs as soon as you have bought them otherwise they will either start to grow, dry out or become mildewed. This will weaken them and result in poor growth and small flowers. Bulbs are usually planted at two or three times the depth of the bulb. Never push bulbs into the ground. Firstly make a suitable hole with a dibber or trowel and place the bulb at the bottom of the whole (shoot end uppermost) then cover with soil.
Some of our most popular flowering bulbs include:
See our full Index of Bulbs and Tubers