How to grow The List Best bulbs for...

Best bulbs for...




Spring star flowers (Ipheion ‘Star Bright’) reliably spread into big colourful patches. These tough and forgiving European woodland bulbs look brilliant mass-planted in semi-shade under deciduous trees. They may be sparse in the first season, but will improve each year.


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Vase life


These last well, with the bonus of fragrance. Slender stems carry a succession of tubular flowers, in either single or double forms. In the garden freesias must have good drainage, and must be left to dry out when the foliage dies down.


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One of the few bulbs to perform well under trees, they tolerate root competition, naturalise well, and cope with both summer irrigation and summer dryness. We like snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) under white Yulan magnolias (Magnolia denudata) as they flower simultaneously in late winter.


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The budget


At $12.50 for 50 bulbs, you can’t beat harlequin flowers (Sparaxis x tricolour). Plant in long drifts or big clumps to maximise the impact. These are low-cost, low-care, long-term colour for spring, native to South Africa, so comfortable in our climate.


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These are the most fragrant of all the spring blooms, best planted in special ‘hyacinth’ vases on a windowsill, in pots, or in the front of the flower bed. Plant 10–15cm deep, with the pointy end upwards. They make brilliant pot plants and can be brought indoors temporarily so you can enjoy their perfume.


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Solider boys

Old-fashioned flowers, soldier boys (Lachenalia aurea) are indestructible and therefore great in confined spaces. Another South African native they have tubular flowers in terracotta shades of gold and orange. The foliage is deep green, often with maroon splotches.


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Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross