Haskins Garden Centres

5 Tips for Great Bulb Displays

Whether they are naturalised in lawns or planted in pots, bulbs provide the perfect antidote to winter.

There’s nothing quite like the fresh colour of spring bulbs to signal the return of life and the start of a new season. With our Bulb Market now in full swing, here are five tips to help you get the best display for next spring.

1. Go natural

If you are looking to plant bulbs into lawns or under trees, the natural look will always work best. Planting in rows looks artificial, especially in mature or woodland gardens. The secret is to introduce some randomness by scattering a good handful of bulbs across your chosen area and plant them where they land. When they flower the following year, your bulbs will look like they’ve always lived there.

2. Plant for a succession of colour

Bulbs flower from February to May with the general sequence being crocus, daffodil then tulip. There are some varieties that will flower out of sequence and a warm micro-climate can also speed up the succession. It’s not unusual to see container grown tulips in January or February if they are in a sheltered, sunny spot.

Bulbs can be layered into pots to create a lasting display. The secret is to choose varieties that flower in different months and then plant them at their correct depth. Bulbs usually need to be planted at a depth of two and half times the bulb height – the depth for an average daffodil is around 15cm. Plant the largest bulbs first, add some soil then plant the next layer until the smallest are close to the top of the pot. At the end, you will have created a lasagne effect of bulbs.

3. Plant in bulk

When planting in borders, 25 to 50 bulbs will create an impressive display. The secret is to plant to the style of your garden. If your garden has a cottage style then a little randomness in the positioning will allow for a more naturalistic look. If you have a contemporary-architectural garden then planting in blocks or in grids will be more appropriate.

When planting in pots, use 5 to 7 bulbs per layer for medium sized pots and more for larger pots, troughs and containers. Odd numbers will always look more aesthetic on the eye and will ensure a good display of colour.

4. Keep colours simple

With all the variety of bulbs available, it’s easy to overdo it. The most dramatic displays work because they have been kept simple rather than made complicated. When you select bulbs for your garden, stick to two contrasting colours or colours in the same part of the spectrum. Simplicity should be the goal of your design.

The main rule of thumb is to contrast or complement. Yellow daffodils look great against the violets and blues of bluebells. Orange or red tulips also look great when combined with pale blue grape hyacinths. For a calmer complementary scheme, try tulips in gentle hues such as lilac or soft pink against white.

5. Protect from pests

After all your hard work of choosing the right plants and colour schemes, you’ll want to protect your investment. Bulbs can be a source of food for hungry squirrels and foxes over a lean winter. The best way to deter them is by using sprigs of holly planted into the soil. Not only will the prickly leaves deter these pests, it will also mark the area in which your bulbs are planted so they don’t get disturbed when you’re weeding.

I would love to hear about the things you do to make your garden work that little bit better or any questions you might have so drop me a line in the comments section below.


  1. Ellen Murray on October 22, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Very interesting blog good tips thank you.

    • Alasdair - Plant Advisor on October 23, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Thanks for feedback.

  2. Ellen Murray on October 22, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    We have the dreaded problem with slugs. Where do they all come from..we’ve put wire around the trees also around many plant pots the little tinkers seeem to bd able to stoll vlimb up I’d appreciate some tips please

    • Alasdair - Plant Advisor on October 23, 2015 at 11:46 am

      This is a perennial problem and I sympathise with your situation. I’ll write a blog post about it.

  3. Lydia Edwards on October 22, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    We collect seaweed from our local beach here in southbourne and dry it so it breaks up easily. We were told that seaweed has all the elemental requirements for most plants needs – Its early days in our little garden, but so far so good!!

    Congratulations to Lydia Edwards for this comment.
    A £25 Haskins Gift Card is on it’s way!

  4. Jane Dusting on November 5, 2015 at 10:51 am

    My friends daughter is working on a college project about terrariums. Can you recommend plants that would be suitable to plant in standard topsoil in this environment and are they currently available to buy in Haskins?

    • Alasdair - Plant Advisor on November 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Hi Jane,

      For those that don’t know, a terrarium is a miniature indoor garden inside a glass container. They were very popular in the 1960’s and 70’s and I remember my grandparents having a massive bottle garden when I was growing up. The plants are low maintenance and are perfect for people who don’t have time, an outdoor garden or a green thumb.

      The most suitable plants are those that are already low maintenance: ferns, mosses, succulents and cacti. The best thing is to choose plants that remain small. Of course, the overall size and type of the terrarium will dictate the number, type and size of plants you can use.

      Open terrariums are more suited to succulents and cacti whilst a closed bottle type will be suited to plants that prefer high humidity, such as ferns or tropical rain-forest house plants.

      The next thing to consider is the location that the terrarium will be in. If the terrarium is to be placed in a bright position then cacti and succulents are more suitable, else shade loving plants will be best.

      I don’t recommend that top soil be used as it will not be free draining enough. The project will be far more successful if a light potting soil with lots of drainage is used, such as John Innes Number 2. I also recommend adding perlite or vermiculite and an activated charcoal to help keep the soil fresh. Placing pea shingle into the base of the container as the first layer will aid drainage too.

      Haskins has a wide range of indoor plants that are suitable for terrariums, from ferns, cacti, aloes and other succulents to shade loving house plants. We also sell pre-planted open terrarium containers and these can provide some inspiration for layout and what works well together.

      My recommendation is to keep things simple and limit the range of plants, preferably to an odd number as that looks more aesthetic.

      I also recommend placing a suitable decorative finish on top of the soil to create a scene. For example, ferns look best in a woodland scene, where as cacti and succulents will look great against a backdrop of gravel and larger stones.

      Feel free to send in some pictures once they are completed so we can take a look.