SPECTACULAR: Hybridisation of our indigenous freesias has created offspring that have spectacularly large blooms.
SPECTACULAR: Hybridisation of our indigenous freesias has created offspring that have spectacularly large blooms.

Autumn is the bulb-planting season. The cool nights, low soil temperatures and shorter days of April make it an excellent time to plant spring-flowering bulbs – with the exception of tulips which are best planted in mid-May.

There is still time to choose from a range of exotic and indigenous bulbs available for planting.

“Exotic” is a word used to describe bulbs that are not indigenous or native to SA.

Daffodil, hyacinth, ranunculus, leucojum, Dutch iris, anemone, tulips and brodiaea are all bulbs that grow wild in parts of the northern hemisphere.

Indigenous spring-flowering bulbs:

Most of the indigenous spring flowering bulbs (including their hybrids and cultivars) are native to the Western Cape, and have undergone hybridisation across the world. Hybridised indigenous bulb cultivars of freesia, ixia, babiana, sparaxis, tritonia, chincherinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides) and Cape cowslip (Lachenalia) are readily available at most garden centres.

How to plant spring bulbs:

Before you rush out and buy spring bulbs, consider these tips on where to plant them and how to care for them.

* Start by choosing a site that receives full sun. Anything less and your bulbs will suffer. The sun’s strength from late May to late September is not as intense, as the summer sun and the days are cool and wet. Bulbs planted beside east-facing walls often become lanky, soft and fall over as they do not receive adequate sunshine.

* Indigenous bulbs are well adapted to local sandy soils. Exotics such as the daffodils do better in a container of organic rich potting soil. Bulbs – especially the small ones – are often better planted in a container filled with potting soil, rather than the garden.

As soon as you have planted the bulbs, water thoroughly. A generous mulch of chipped bark or well-rotted compost will help to retain moisture during dry days, but avoid using wet manure, as it may burn the bulbs.

* Planting bulbs at the correct depth is crucial to the success of your spring garden. If bulbs are planted too deep, they will not come up. If planted too shallow, the roots will not be able to support the leaves and the plant will fall over.

* The depth to plant your bulbs can be measured from the base or root of the bulb to the surface of the ground. Every packet of bulbs comes with specific instructions, but as a general rule, plant the bulb at a depth that is twice the diameter of the bulb.

* Water is the key to the success of your spring garden, and our winter rains provide flowering bulbs with practically all the moisture they require throughout their winter growing period. Remember that spring bulbs need to be keep moist, so watch out for the odd dry spell, and water bulbs in containers under the eaves regularly. If bulbs dry out, they will abort their flower embryo and there will be no colour in spring. - Weekend Argus