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Flower bulbs: plant them in the autumn

The end of autumn is approaching: time to plant flower bulbs before it gets too cold. By planting tulips, daffodils and hyacinths now, you’ll be enjoying their bright colours and sweet fragrances to the full next spring. But why do flower bulbs have to be planted right now? And can they really tolerate frost?

Winter sleep

Spring still seems far away. Even so, autumn is the right time to plant flower bulbs. Why does this have to be done so far in advance? By planting flower bulbs in the autumn, they have enough time to grow strong roots. The earlier the roots are produced, the better the bulb can tolerate frost. As soon as temperatures rise again, the flower bulbs awaken from their winter sleep. This is when they start to grow and push their flower buds up through the soil. 

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Frost

Can flower bulbs planted in the soil really tolerate frost? Fortunately, they are seldom damaged by frost. This is because flower bulbs can protect themselves. They do this by transforming their starches into sugars. The higher the sugar content in the flower bulbs, the lower the freezing point they have. As luck would have it, flower bulbs contain very large quantities of starch. This gives them extra protection from the cold. Even so, flower bulbs can dry out if they are exposed to frost for too long. This can happen when they have been unable to absorb any moisture.

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Planting instructions

Spring-flowering bulbs can be planted from September to the end of December. Make sure, however, to get them in before the soil freezes. Avoid planting them in places where rainwater collects on the surface such as at the foot of a hill or at the bottom of a drainpipe. This is because flower bulbs that stand in water too long have a greater chance of drowning due to a lack of oxygen. Follow these six steps for planting flower bulbs.

  • Loosen the soil with a spade at the place where you want to plant the flower bulbs. This makes the soil easier to work with.
  • When flower bulbs are not being planted in an existing border, it might be advisable to amend the soil with some organic fertilizer such as compost.
  • Dig a hole with a trowel or bulb planter and plant the flower bulbs in it with their points facing up and their roots facing down.
  • Make sure that the bulbs are planted at a depth three times the height of the bulb itself. (A daffodil bulb 5 centimetres tall should thus be planted at a depth of 15 centimetres.)
  • Fill the hole with the previously removed soil and tamp the surface gently.
  • Water immediately after planting if the soil is not already moist. This will ensure that the flower bulbs will start growing roots straightaway.

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