Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, snowdrops, tulips, bluebells and crocus are best when bought and sowed during autumn. The earliest you can buy these spring bulbs is generally the end of September and these early bought bulbs are the best you can get as they are fresh, firm and free from disease and mould.
The best time to plant spring flower bulbs is in autumn; between the months of September and December as this allows time for the bulbs to settle into the ground and to slowly come out of dormancy in late winter. But we often leave it late to get around to planting spring bulbs and in some years it has been as late as February before I get around to sow my spring bulbs. This, of course, would be going against what all the text books say, but I have found that late planted bulbs have a good survival rate and offer good blooms albeit somewhat later and smaller than those planted in autumn.
If you have a load of spring bulbs and haven’t had a chance to plant them- don’t give up all hope as I have found that even if they have started to sprout new shoots you still have time to get them in the ground and ensure flowering that season
But there are a few things to consider when planting your spring bulbs late:
Be sure to store your bulbs in a cool, ventilated location until you are ready to sow them. If your bulbs are in a large bag it is best to open up the bag and lay the bulbs out so that they are not crowded and on top of each other. Keep your bulbs dry and free from frosty conditions
Make sure that the bulbs are in a good condition – Not all or your bulbs will survive being left unplanted over the winter months. I find that, in suitable storage conditions, you can lose about 20% of your bulbs prior to sowing. Bulbs that are soft, mouldy or desiccated will not survive and should not be planted
When planting make sure you plant them with the sprouting foliage pointing upwards – taking care not to damage the bulb’s roots or foliage. With daffodils you should plant them so that their sprouts are just below ground level. Once planted water the spring bulbs in well.
Whilst more established spring bulbs will grow larger and flower bigger, your late planted bulbs will take a bit longer to develop. But by the second season these bulbs will have caught up on your other bulbs and will flower as early and strongly.
Birds are a real pest of young and recently planted bulbs as the birds can mistake the young shoots emerging from the ground for yummy worms. Others say that the birds think the bulbs are pea plants and pull up the bulbs in search of peas. Either way birds can devastate new bulbs and should be protected against.