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Summer flowering bulbs

How to plant summer flowering bulbs

Whether you’re a newbie or a spring gardening enthusiast, bulbs are some of the easiest and most rewarding plants to grow. Producing ever-popular flowers such as Dahlias, Gladioli and Lilies, bulbs provide weeks of colour in your garden come summertime and are great for lighting up your borders and pots - all for very little effort

Stroll through your garden, take in the magnificent sight of the seasonal flowers, and find satisfaction in knowing you’ve grown them all yourself with the help of our complete step-by-step guide on growing summer flowering bulbs

You can always pop into your local Dobbies Garden Centre if you have any more questions - our experts on the shop floor are there to offer specialist advice and help guide you through your growing journey!

Know before you grow

  • There are 4 types of bulbs – true bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes. In general, they’re all planted in the same way as the step-by-step guide below, but make sure to read the packaging beforehand in case there are any differences

  • If you just can’t wait for summer to see the colour, or if you miss the time for planting, you can buy equally beautiful bulbs in ready-planted containers and pots. However, planting bulbs yourself is a great way to have fun and get creative with your displays

When to plant summer flowering bulbs

The time to plant your bulbs for blooming in summer depends on the variety of bulb:

  • Summer-flowering bulbs like Begonias, Dahlias, Lilies and Gladioli are planted in spring (and become dormant in winter)

  • Check the packaging on each variety of bulb for specific planting instructions. It’s important to buy your bulbs as soon as they’re available in store so you can organise your planting times, which can begin as early as late autumn

Where to plant bulbs

Bulbs are generally planted in a warm, sunny location, in well-draining soil. However, some bulb types are suitable for shade and dry soil – read the packaging to make sure you’re planting your bulbs in the correct condition

Top tip:  For style, bulbs look lovely planted amongst perennials in beds or in containers, which can be moved around the garden to keep your garden layout looking fresh

Summer flowering bulbs

You will need

Summer flowering bulbs


Follow these steps to plant any bulb type:


  1. Place bulbs on the ground to visualise where you want to plant them. Space them twice the bulb’s width apart

  1. Dig holes which are wide and deep enough for each bulb using a trowel or bulb planter. Most bulbs are planted 2-3 times their depth (e.g. for a 5cm tall bulb, dig a hole 10-15cm deep). If you have very wet or heavy soil, add grit at the bottom of the hole to improve drainage and prevent rot during winter

  1. Plant the bulbs in the holes with the pointy end facing upwards, then fill the hole back in and gently firm the soil

  1. Add plant labels to areas where bulbs are planted to remind you where they are and to stop you digging up the area after they have flowered

  1. Water the area straight away, unless the ground is already moist or you’re planting your bulbs in autumn 


  1. At the base of your container, place some horticultural grit and crocks (which is just broken bits of terracotta pots, if you have it handy), to help with drainage. Add compost around 10cm deep

  1. Plant the bulbs with the pointy end facing up, spacing them around 1-2cm apart. Fill the rest of the container with compost

  1. Move to your preferred spot in the garden. If you’re growing your bulbs indoors, keep them in a cool, dark, dry, and airy place until shoots appear, then move them to a warmer, lighter area. When they flower you can then move them outside or plant them in the garden

  1. Water once after planting then regularly during active growth, reducing when the leaves start to die down and they become dormant

Summer flowering bulbs

Caring for your bulbs

Now all your bulbs are planted, there are things you can do to encourage those sprouts to show and the bulbs to flower beautifully

Bulbs are generally very low maintenance and don’t need much care. Water thoroughly and allow the soil to become damp before watering again. You want moist compost, not soggy! Those in containers might need a little extra watering and feeding

Hardy bulbs like lilies can be left in the ground all year. Containers should be moved into greenhouses or cold frames during frostier months

In winter, check your pots to ensure they haven’t completely dried out. To promote good flowering year after year, feed your bulbs every seven to ten days with high potash fertiliser. Feed as soon as shoots appear. Stop feeding when the foliage dies down at the end of the season

Our expert's top tips

  • The supply of bulbs is limited each season - popular or sought after varieties can run out fast, so get in there quickly!

  • If not planting straight away, store your bulbs in a cool, frost-free and dark place until ready to plant

  • If you missed planting your bulbs at the right time, you should still get them in the ground or in a pot as soon as possible to stop them deteriorating. Discard any that are soft or rotten. How well they develop might be a hit or miss, but it’s worth trying rather than letting the bulbs go to waste. They might not flower as expected in first year (for example, have shorter stems), but if they’re the type to come back every year then they should get better as time goes on. Add a well-balanced fertiliser to help them recover

  • When planting bulbs in the ground, keep them in groups of at least 5 to create a beautiful display when they bloom. You’ll likely need around 25-50 bulbs to really fill out a display in large borders

  • When planting in containers, bulbs that have large, showy flowers, such as Dahlias or Lilies look the best. For some instant colour, and so your pots look prettier while you wait for the bulbs to grow, plant the top of the pot with bedding flowers such as Pansies and Violas

Remember if you have any further questions, pop into your local Dobbies Garden Centre to ask our experts on the shop floor, who are always happy to help