Bulbs In The Green - Everything You Need To Know

Bulbs in the green can be planted out at the beginning of the year allowing you to inject flowers quickly into your garden, woodland or meadow.  Here's everything you need to know about these spring-planted bulbs.

What are bulbs in the green:

These are bulbs which are supplied when they are actively growing. They are lifted, transported, and replanted with their foliage and stems attached, as opposed to autumn bulbs which are lifted and sold while they are dormant.

When should you plant them:

Depending on the species and when they are lifted, bulbs in the green are delivered at different stages of growth from mid-January to early April.  They are ready to be planted out as soon as they arrive and can bloom in a few weeks. Plant them earlier in the spring for blooms in the same year.  Those planted later in the spring, when the plants are more developed and the blooms are already dying back, will flower again in the next growing season.

For instance:

Snowdrops in the green which are supplied in January have some foliage and early flower growth and should go on to flower within a few weeks.  The flowers are more developed on February-supplied plants.  The blooms on plants supplied from March will usually be dying back and these bulbs will produce new blooms the following growing season.

For bluebells in the green, bulbs supplied from January to March will have stems emerging and many (though not all!) will flower in that year.  Those that don’t will bloom the following year.

Why plant bulbs when they are in the green:

There are many advantages to planting these actively growing bulbs: 

  • You can see the bulbs are alive and healthy when you are planting them.
  • The flowers and the root systems are already developing so they establish faster than autumn-planted bulbs.
  • They are less prone than autumn bulbs to being nibbled by small hungry animals.
  • You can see where you have planted them as the growing stem and leaves are visible above the ground; this makes planting and positioning the bulbs easier.
  • It’s clear how deep they should be planted from the colour of the stems and foliage.
  • It’s a great way to provide instant colour in your winter garden, woodland or wildflower meadow.

How to plant actively growing bulbs:

As they are actively growing, bulbs in the green cannot be stored in the same way as autumn planting bulbs and must be planted within a few days of receipt.  They are more fragile than autumn bulbs and should be handled with care.  Do not let them dry out before planting.

  • It’s a good idea to prepare your site in advance so you can plant out your bulbs in the green as soon as possible after they arrive.
  • When you are ready to plant, carefully unwrap the bulbs and separate into clumps of 3 to 5 plants.
  • Then, cut a slit in the ground with a spade or a trowel and place the plants to the depth they were lifted from. This should be clear to see, as those parts of the leaves and stems which were below the soil will be much paler than the sections which were above ground level.
  • Firm the plants in gently and water well.
  • If naturalising, leave about 10-15cm between each clump of bulbs in the green to make sure they have space to spread.

Maintaining your bulbs:

Once the bulbs have flowered it’s important to leave the foliage on the plants.  Try to resist tying the leaves up or bending them over to tidy them away; they need to be exposed to sunlight. Flowering bulbs need their leaves to photosynthesize after flowering to enable the plants to store energy in their bulbs for next year’s blooms.  The flowering stems can be cut back unless you are saving the seeds for collection.

How to divide bulbs in the green:

Most bulb species will multiply every year with offshoots forming around the original bulb.  After a few years, this can cause overcrowding and affect how well individual plants grow and flower.  At this point, many bulbs will benefit from being lifted and divided to give the original plants more room to grow and to generate new plants to establish elsewhere.

Some spring bulbs, such as snowdrops, bluebells, snowflakes, and crocuses, establish better from division when lifted in the green.  It’s a good idea to lift winter aconites at this stage as their corms can be tricky to spot in the soil when they are dormant.  To divide bulbs in the green:

  • Wait for the foliage to die back completely; remember the plants need their foliage after flowering to photosynthesize for next year’s flowers.
  • Carefully lever up the clumps of bulbs with a fork.
  • Gently separate the smaller ‘child’ bulbs from the original ‘parent’.
  • Discard any damaged or diseased bulbs and any that are soft or rotten.
  • Replant the parent plants in their original position and plant out the new bulbs – it might take one or two seasons for these new bulbs to establish to the point of flowering.

For more information about our range of bulbs in the green, including information on their current stage of growth, please get in touch on: 01672 560757.