In Australia, spring-flowering bulbs begin their display as early as May, then continue through winter until October or November in cooler zones. As the weather warms up, the flower show for late blooming bulbs, including tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, bluebells, Dutch iris, anemone and ranunculus, is in full swing, and it’s peak time to visit open spring gardens and bulb displays.
In your own garden, keep up the water and fortnightly feeding while your bulbs’ leaves are green, then ease off as foliage yellows. As flowers finish, remove spent flower stalks to focus your bulbs’ energy into food storage, rather than seed production. Don’t be tempted to cut back the foliage. Allow leaves to die down naturally, so that they make plenty of food for next season’s flowering.
If the untidy look bothers you, plant violas or pansies over the top. Combining bulbs with tall-flowering perennials such as Aquilegia spp., Penstemon spp. or salvias disguises the fading bulb foliage and maintains a colourful spring display.
to lift or not?
In warm and temperate areas, which don’t experience cold winters or frost, bulbs left in the ground may get too hot, and can overheat and wither in the soil over summer. Equally, bulbs can rot during wet, humid summers. Bulbs that require lifting include tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, fancy daffodils and alliums.
Dig these out of the ground, shake off excess soil and place in trays, boxes, baskets or string bags.
Gladioli, spring stars (Ipheion spp.), snowflakes (Leucojum spp.), freesias, Sparaxis spp., ixias, common daffodils and nerines can be left in the ground year after year. To keep soil cooler during summer, it’s a good idea to apply a 5cm layer of mulch over the soil or grow spreading annuals or groundcovers over the top.
Store bulbs the same way you store onions – in a cool, dry place, with good air circulation.
Keep them there until next April, when they will need to be chilled to initiate flowering. Refrigerate for 5–6 weeks until Mother's Day, then replant into your garden or in pots from mid-May.