October is the main month to plant dry bulbs to flower next spring and you will not go short of articles on this topic. So I will dwell in a bit more detail on one familiar bulb – the Tulip. Traditionally planted in rows or blocks of a single variety in bedding schemes in parks and open gardens, there are plenty of Tulip festivals to showcase this rather spectacular flower. But growing them at home can be a hit and miss experience, a common problem being that plants fail to reappear in subsequent years.
What you should know before comparing your garden to a tulip festival is that they plant fresh bulbs each autumn (and dispose of them after flowering) whereas at home we want to keep bulbs flowering for many years and that means a dose of fertiliser in spring and letting leaves dies off naturally once flowering is finished because the plant captures energy from the sun through its leaves and stores it in the bulb ready for next year. If the leaves are cut off too soon the bulb will remain small and shrivelled and you will get poor flowers the following year so it is important to retain the leaves, not tied up or cut off, for at least 6 weeks after flowering.
Most important is the fact that tulips are native to central Asia and Turkey, telling you that they thrive in hot, fairly dry places. I garden on heavy clay and even with plenty of organic matter added tulip bulbs frequently die over winter in the wet soil, so all mine are grown in pots. If you garden on sandy soil then tulips should be fine in the ground.
Happy Planting, Alison