‘Can I plant bulbs in December’ is a very valid question. After all, amidst the doom and gloom of the winter months, you’re probably longing for the bright and bold colours that come with spring.
Although the best garden ideas come to life during spring and summer, autumn and winter is a great time to prepare your garden for the major blooming seasons. For the most part, you should be focusing on bringing plants inside for the winter - but you can also focus on planting bulbs in December, too.
To help you out, we’ve consulted with gardening experts to explain the intricacies of planting bulbs in December, as well as the best bulbs to plant before the end of the year.
Can I plant bulbs in December?
If you’re wondering whether you can add planting bulbs to your list of jobs to do in the garden in December, the answer isn’t a simple one. Technically, the answer is yes - but there are some caveats to that.
Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench says, ‘Generally, you can only plant bulbs in December if the ground has yet to be frozen, and there hasn't been any snow either. That means that for a lot of the UK right now, planting bulbs isn't recommended as there has already been snow and freezing spells which make the ground unsuitable.’
However, it’s important to note that this does depend on where you live. For many in the south of the UK, December temperatures have been fairly mild - which means that you may still have a chance to prepare your garden for next year.
But if you’re a little wary of the chillier temperatures, Steve has offered a solution for those who really want to get a head start on planting their spring bulbs.
‘If you really need to plant your bulbs now, I recommend planting in a garden bed or pot - somewhere that is separated from the direct ground. Just remember, if the ground is frozen, it's generally recommended to plant bulbs in containers indoors and then move them outdoors once the soil thaws and the weather gets warmer.’
Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field and has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.
The best bulbs to plant in December
Although it’s possible to plant bulbs in December, it’s important to note that some bulbs will have more success being planted at this time than others. Below, you’ll find the best bulbs to plant in December for guaranteed blooms next year:
Tulips are a welcome sign of spring, and the multitude of colour options can really pop among the greenery of your garden. However, knowing when to plant tulips is key - and it just so happens that you can get away with planting tulips in December.
Harry Bodell, gardening expert at PriceYourJob.co.uk says, ‘tulips are best planted in cold weather to reduce the risk of tulip fire which causes brown spots to appear on the leaves and flowers. This fungus also causes the tulip leaves to distort, twist or wither. Warm, damp weather helps this disease to spread, so the cold of December should help protect your tulips.
But if you need a little help, our guide on how to plant tulips should give you all the information you need to know about these stunning blooms.
If you want to know how to plant daffodils, you first need to follow the rules on when to plant daffodils. And while you should technically plant daffodil bulbs in September, the rules are fairly loose - especially when the winter is mild.
Harry says, ‘Daffodils prefer to be planted when there is still some warmth in the soil as it allows them to develop roots before the cold of winter. If the weather in December is mild and the ground soft, then the daffodils should be fine.’
However, he has issued a warning to those planting daffodils in December. ‘When planted later than normal, they will bloom later in the spring, and some may come up blind, meaning with foliage but without flowers.’
Like many other spring bulbs, the perfect time to plant hyacinth bulbs is between September and November - but most experts agree that you can also plant them in December if you left your spring garden prep to the last minute.
‘Hyacinths can be planted from September up to December either in your borders or in outdoor containers,’ explains Harry. ‘If planted in the ground, the soil should be well-drained and in a sunny position. As with other spring bulbs planted later than normal, your hyacinths will bloom later than they normally would.’
Any other leftover bulbs
While certain spring bulbs do prefer being planted in autumn, there’s no harm in trying some extra planting out for size - as long as the ground isn’t frozen over or too waterlogged.
Harry suggests, ‘If you find some spring bulbs that you have forgotten about, and which are in good condition, it is worth planting them rather than discarding them. They may reward you with a wonderful display in the spring, and if they don’t bloom, then just remember to plant earlier next year.’
So, have a dig around your shed and see what you can find!
Is December too late to plant bulbs?
No, December isn’t too late to plant bulbs - but it’s important to remember that you should never plant bulbs if the ground has frozen or you’ve experienced snow. Similarly, you should never plant bulbs in ground that is too waterlogged.
However, if we’ve had a mild December and you have well-draining soil, you should still be able to successfully plant bulbs in December.
Will bulbs grow if planted in January?
Although experts advise planting bulbs before the end of the year, there’s no harm in trying to plant bulbs in January. Some bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, may still grow as you’d hope - but it’s important to note that they will probably bloom later than bulbs that were planted in November or December.
So, if you want a guaranteed garden for spring, it’s best to try to plant your spring bulbs in late autumn.
How do you plant tulip bulbs in December?
The best way to plant tulip bulbs in December is to plant them in pots. This way, you can take advantage of late planting without subjecting them to frozen ground, frost, or even snow.
Generally, tulips can cope with cold temperatures, but keeping them safe in containers is the best way to protect them and give them the best chance of establishing their roots before spring comes around.
Yes, you can plant bulbs in December - but it’s probably best to get a wriggle on before it gets too cold.
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Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.
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