Buying bulbs in the green may be a confusing term for many people.
Basically it means purchasing your snowdrops, bluebells, daffodils as growing plants rather than just as a bulb.
There are various reasons for this method of buying your garden plants.
I would say that the main one is that it guarantees that the bulb is viable. It is a living plant, with leaves, possibly flower buds, maybe even a blower in bloom. This may seem self-evident, but if plants are bought as bulbs, there may be issues with them not flowering.
This used to be a real problem with some imported bulbs.
They were sold in good faith, but had been incorrectly stored or treated before selling. The dried out, wizened bulbs were not likely to ever grow leaves flower.
Flowering bulbs which bloom in late winter and early spring are purchased as bulbs in the green during December – March. Signs of growth – leaves, flower buds – are a pre-requisite, naturally.
Tips for Buying Bulbs in the Green
Buy them in person. Obvious, maybe, but if you can, it does solve a lot of potential issues.
Buy from a reputable nursery or trader. This could be in person, through catalogues or online. Again, you know that the bulbs will have been grown for sale and not lifted from the wild.
If you’re not buying them in person, check what you’re getting. Different quantities of bulbs and different methods of packing are on offer.
How many bulbs in the green are being offered for the price? Rare snowdrops are frequently sold as single bulbs. Whereas our native Galanthus nivalis will probably come in a clump of ten or even twenty-five.
Does it state that the bulbs are mature and of flowering size?
How are the bulbs in the green presented to you as the buyer?
This could be in full growth with a little soil attached to the bulbs. Possibly wrapped round with moss and bubblewrap to keep them moist. If you have the bulbs delivered ‘loose’ in moss, they will need to be planted promptly.
A few nurseries may send them in pots. Generally, bulbs in the green sold in pots tend to be found in nurseries and garden centres.
If you’re buying in person, are the bulbs are well-rooted in the pot and not recently put in there?
Look for flower buds rather than open blooms. You want to get the most from your purchase after all!
Some spring flowers suitable for buying as bulbs in the green to plant in your garden
By planting bulbs in the green rather than dormant bulbs you can see exactly where you are putting them. It’s also an extremely useful way to inject flowers quickly into bare spots in your winter garden
Bluebells, English bluebells, Hyacinthoides non scripta
Spring Snowflake, Leucojum vernum
Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum
Snakeshead Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris
Other bulbs in the green for your late winter and spring garden
Although strictly speaking these are not bulbs, but rhizomes and corms.
Winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis
Spring flowering Crocus
Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majus
Many of these plants can be planted as dormant bulbs, corms and rhizomes in the previous autumn. However, buying and planting bulbs in the green is useful if you were too busy in the autumn. Or possibly because you moved house and had to leave the bulbs behind. Or even, dare I suggest it, because you would like more winter and spring flowering bulbs in your garden!