Flower Bulb Layering

The secret of getting two to four times the amount of spring flowers from the same garden space is all about layering!

What is Flower Bulb Layering?
There is no magic fertilizer that gets bulbs to double or triple their output: to double your blooms, you must double your planting whether they are planted in the ground, in containers, or a mix of both.

When you plant flower bulbs, in the garden or in containers, it is always important to plant them at the correct depth for that variety. This ensures they have enough nutrients, root room to grow and bloom, and insulation from the varying temperatures throughout the year.

Lasagna Flower Bulb Layering
The Dutch refer to the layering of flower bulbs as creating a ‘flower bulb lasagne’ – the secret to enormous flower displays in limited space. The process is simple once you know how to do it.

Firstly, determine what types of bulbs you want to layer and that your container contains a drainage hole. You could add an inch or two of horticultural grit or gravel to the bottom to increase the drainage and then add around two inches of soil.

The largest bulbs like Tulips, Daffodils or Alliums, should be planted deepest so they go in first. Space them no more than half an inch apart and then cover with a couple inches of soil.

Plant the next sized bulbs on top of this layer of soil and if you are planting three or four layers, just continue to add soil between the bulb layers as you go. The top layer should be the smallest bulbs like crocuses and grape hyacinths.

Cover this top layer with three to four inches of soil and top the container with a planting of pansies, violas and cyclamen to enjoy through autumn and winter until the bulbs start to poke through in springtime. 

As roots, stems and leaves form, they naturally seek open spaces to grow through. The bulbs at the bottom will weave between the bulbs above to find the sunlight and open air above.

Coordinated or Sequential Blooming?
Flower bulb layering will give you many more blooms either in containers or in the garden bed but you should decide before buying bulbs whether you are aiming for coordinated blooming, where all the varieties bloom at the same time, or sequential blooming, where one layer comes into flower just another fades away. There is no right or wrong decision, the choice is what fits your garden best.

How to Select Varieties for Bulb Layering
Selecting varieties to layer in your planting is about much more than just ‘these two plants should look good together’. It is vital to select varieties that will do well in the situation in which you going to plant them such as by a doorway, outside a window or in a border and which share the same needs for sun exposure and watering. It just will not work to plant shade loving bulbs with those that need full sun.

Select bulbs that require varying planting depths as well as ones that grow to varying heights. Choose early, mid and late spring blooming varieties for creating that succession of colour if you are trying to prolong the flowering period.

Good choices include:

  • crocuses (early), grape hyacinths, daffodils (mid season) and tulips (mid to late spring)
  • extra tall bulbs like Tulip White Trumpeter (24”), Tulip Black Hero (18”), Tulip Black Parrot (20”), Daffodil Aptheose or Daffodil Winston Churchill
  • tall bulbs like Tulip Red Riding Hood, Toronto and Pinnochio or Quebec
  • short daffodils like February Gold or Tete a Tete
  • miniature bulbs like Muscari, Crocus or Snowdrops

Read more of David and Tom’s Top Choices Daffodil and Tulip choices.

  • Top Tips
    Soak all your bulbs in diluted tomato feed for a four to six hours prior to planting. This is like marinating your bulbs and you will get a lot more blossoms from the pot next spring.
  • Always remember to plant pointy side up.

Tom’s Hidden Garden is located in Bonnybridge, Central Scotland – a small garden with over 630 different plants, 200 containers and 30 hanging baskets. Tom Williamson has been developing the garden over the last 35 years, working with David Gallacher over the last 10 to create its unique look. Tom is a keen gardener, planting where he thinks a plant will be happy. David is a time-served gardener in commercial gardens and landscaping. Catch up with more secrets of their garden and their success with plants on their Facebook group.

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