In bloom this winter

Good talked to the team at family-run NZ Bulbs, part of Aorangi Bulb Nurseries, who have been in business for more than 60 years. We asked what flower bulbs we should be planting now, ahead of the winter season. 

When did NZ Bulbs begin?

NZ Bulbs is part of Aorangi Bulb Nurseries, started by Len and Margaret Hoek in 1957, and we’ve been a family business for 61 years this year. Len still works every day in the nursery, great proof that gardening leads to a healthy lifestyle. We now grow more than 25 acres of bulbs through the year for both bulb and cut flower production, as well as having three quarters of an acre of greenhouse space.

Is there a clear flower bulb that is the most popular? 

While daffodils and tulips are the spring cliché bulbs that everyone loves, I think freesias are the bulb that we sell the most of – not only are they wonderful spring colour, they are great value, and above all, they have fragrance.

Double pink and white daffodils
Dutch Iris

What are some bulbs to plant this winter, and what is the best practice for planting them? 

The best time to be planting bulbs is in April and through to early May in warmer areas. Bulbs love the cooler, moist soil in autumn and quickly establish strong roots. Nearly all bulbs need good drainage and like a sunny position. As a general rule, plant smaller bulbs (1.5 – 2 cm across) 6-7 cm deep, and plant larger bulbs 10-12 cm deep. No fertiliser is needed at planting time – fertiliser is best used when the shoots are well up and the plant is growing, and again after flowering to feed the bulb for the next season.


The most popular bulbs are:

Daffodils – universally popular and available in a wide range of colours and flower shapes from the classic yellow through to fancy pink and white “double” daffodils with large flower heads and many petals. They grow well in all parts of New Zealand, and although they prefer a sunny position, they do tolerate partial shade.  The fancy types can be sensitive to too much warmth, so are best planted in the garden rather than pots in warmer areas – pots warm up much more quickly than the soil and the warmth can prevent flowering.

Tulips – everyone loves a mass planting of tulips and there are many botanic gardens that have wonderful displays in spring. Tulips like a cooler climate, so if you’re in a warmer area, stick to the Darwin Hybrid tulips as they tolerate warmth much better than other types. Short stems can be a problem in warm areas and to prevent this you can chill the bulbs for 5-6 weeks in your fridge before planting. This allows the new season flower inside the bulb to finish developing, it needs the cold to do this. You can plant as late as the end of May in warmer areas as well, to give plenty of time for chilling.

Freesias – adored for their many bright colours and their fragrance, freesias can be planted in all parts of New Zealand, but they can be harmed by hard frosts, so protect them from frost if you live in a colder area. They’re great for the garden or in pots.

Bluebells – just magnificent in large drifts and they love shady areas beneath trees where other bulbs don’t do so well. Bluebells increase quickly so you can have a beautiful large patch in only a few years. They’re lightly fragrant as well, more noticeable when you have a large group of them.

Dutch irises – so well known as a cut flower, they are great in the garden too. Plant them further back behind the shorter bulbs and garden borders, their height will show them off in mid spring for welcome colour after the earlier bulbs have flowered. They come in so many different colours from golden yellow through many shades of blue and purple, and even pure white.

For more and to purchase your choice of bulbs, visit nzbulbs.co.nz/store 

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