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How to: 4 bulbs that make a longer lasting spring display


Who doesn’t love the vibrant dazzle of tulips? But blink and you'll miss them.

We plant them every year for the sheer pleasure of those bolshy blooms but the show only lasts a week or two in our often warm and windy spring. Compounding the problem - tulips can't be convinced to flower again.


For a longer-lasting and less expensive bulb display that builds to become better and better each year, try one of these fabulous four alternatives:

1. Drumstick Allium

The drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) is little-known but worth seeking out. It flowers much later than other spring bulbs. The small rounded flower heads change from pale green to rich cerise over summer. We planted some about three years ago and they have grown into lovely thick clumps. If we need to add another clump, just pull a few bulbs out after flowering and replant.


Drumstick allium keep replicating naturally, plant 30 one year and you have 60 the next! Photo - Linda Ross

2. Ixia

Ixias flower in a mix of jewel-like colours. Once planted they will naturalise and delight you each spring. Look for one called ‘Duck Egg Blue’ (Ixia viridiflora). It’s a tone of teal blue quite unlike anything else in the garden. Ixia love the sun and need well-drained soil but will out live you!


Ixia naturalise in your garden. Photo - Linda Ross


3. Babiana

Babiana is tough and easy to grow, with a reward of magenta/blue flowers for no effort at all. Give them a sunny spot that is well-drained and don’t overwater - babiana hate to be wet. You can plant them in pots but remember, as with all bulbs, to leave the foliage to die down after flowering as the leaves produce food to strengthen the bulb. Cut them back once they have died off.


Blue babiana. Photo -


4. Ranunculus

For cut flowers, ranunculus is the pick of the spring bulb bunch. Each tiny corm, which is a type of bulb, can produce up to 20-30 blooms. Plant each corm into just-moist soil in a sunny spot and don’t water until growth appears. Once the flowers open, keep cutting them to encourage more blooms.


Each ranunculus bulb will produce 20-30 flowers each! Photo -


Where to buy

- Van Diemen Quality Bulbs 03 64422012

- Tesselaars 1300 428 527 

- Lambley Nursery 03 53434303


Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross