When choosing bulbs for the garden, always look for the healthiest and strongest specimens. Obviously this is impossible when buying by mail order. However, most mail order nurseries are reputable and only send out their best and healthiest stock.
Always look at bulbs, corms and tubers closely and choose firm ones that seem solid and heavy for their size. With bulbs and corms, the larger and heavier they are the better in terms of flowering potential.
When selecting tubers, simply look for healthy specimens, since size is not so important. Check the outer skin carefully and choose those with the least damage.
Do not buy bulbs that are obviously shriveled or have any soft spots, particularly around the base or the neck. Reject bulbs with any sign of mould, no matter how slight and look carefully to ensure there are no insects that could weaken or destroy them.
Bulbs generally survive and flower well the first year, even when poorly planted. They can even survive being planted upside down, although this is not recommended!! The soil should be enriched with plenty of organic matter prior to planting but there is no need to incorporate specific fertilizer into the planting holes, as the bulbs’ own store of nutrients will see them through the first flowering season. Subsequently they will require annual fertilizing in order to maintain the best results.
Most bulbs, corms and tubers can be propagated easily, by lifting and dividing them every few years. In fact most will benefit from being divided occasionally, as flower production is reduced if they are left undisturbed indefinitely.
The way in which bulbs are propagated depends on their structure. True bulbs produce small offsets, which grow around the base of the mature bulb. These in turn will grow into mature bulbs once they have been separated from the parent bulb.
Corms produce cormlets around the edge of the base of the mature corm every season. In order to propagate, lift the corms and gently pull away the cormlets then replant the mature corm.
Tubers are propagated by cutting the mature stock with a clean, sharp knife. For it to be able to grow make sure that each cut section has either an eye or a section of stem. Replant immediately where the plant is to grow.
Bulbs do not easily compete with weeds, which deplete the soil of moisture and nutrients. If the area around the bulbs is well mulched, weeding will be less of a problem. If, however, weeds persist, water the ground several hours before weeding. This is less traumatic for the bulbs and makes the task easier.
Although regular moisture is required for healthy growth, bulbs should not be over watered. Provided the soil has good drainage qualities, over watering should not be a problem. But should the soil be inclined to be boggy, attempt to improve the texture by adding plenty of compost or manure. The amount of watering the garden requires depends on the type of soil, the style of garden and the general climate and amount of rainfall.
Your Independent guide to Gardening