flower bulbsNow’s the time to get planting the flower bulbs that will emerge at the end of winter and into spring, filling the garden with bursts of rainbow colour. We provide some useful tips to make the most of these lovely plants.

Buying flower bulbs

At the end of summer, garden centres are filled with an astonishing variety of bulbs and corms. (Bulbs and corms occur on plants that have evolved reservoirs to store energy in dormant periods. Bulbs develop when fleshy scales at the base of leaves swell, enclosing the next year’s stem and flower – an example is an onion. Corms are swellings that develop at the base of stems. Gladioli are a good example. Gardeners can treat bulbs and corms in a similar way.) Choose bulbs and corms that are the largest of the species you’ve decided on, are clean and free of blemishes and have no soft spots.

Planting flower bulbs

  • Bulbs need a location that receives sun. They also do well in window boxes and pots.
  • Plant bulbs in groups rather than in a row for more impact.
  • If you’re focusing on indigenous flower bulbs, try watsonia, pink harebells (Dierama species), light green and yellow tubular-flowered Albuca shawii from the Drakensberg area, lilies, ixia or sparaxis.
  • Plant taller-growing species such as Dutch irises, watsonias and ixia near the back of a bed.
  • Plant clumps of freesias, sparaxis, irises, ranunculus and daffodils in pots on a sunny patio.


Almost half the bulbs grown around the world originated in South Africa. Freesias, lachenalia, chincherinchees, ixia and tritonia, for example, are just some of the species that come from the Western Cape alone.

Caring for bulbs

Bulbs need remarkably little care except to be kept moist so that the flowers can set. Water for 40 minutes every four days.

You’ll find lots more information about bulbs and specific species at www.thegardener.co.za


Acknowledgements & Photo credits

1. Flower bulb photo by Senet (Own work)