Garden tasks for March: get planting

This monthly guide is geared to London gardens and their unique conditions. Compiled by the RHS Wisley Plant Centre team
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If your garden needs an injection of colour, bedding flowers - such as vivid primulas (above) and velvety pansies - are a quick and easy solution
It’s getting light, get into the garden. Plant centres are full of new ideas, so go shopping for colourful summer-flowering bulbs. Think big with Gladioli, or plant a salad bar in some big tubs. Our expert monthly guide from the Royal Horticultural Society has the top tips.

Need to do in your garden this month

* Get planting in your vegetable garden or use a vegetable patio planter if you’re short of space (available from plant centres). Try shallots, onion sets, and chitted early potatoes like Arran Pilot, Foremost, Lady Christl or Red Duke of York. These all have the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) which means they are recommended by the RHS.

* If it’s all a bit daunting why not pop along to the RHS Garden Wisley (Wisley Lane, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB) for lots of advice at the RHS Grow Your Own event on 6-7 March, with exciting displays and advice on how to fill your plate with home-grown produce.

Wander around the Wisley Model Fruit and Vegetable Gardens, and discover how to lay-out or improve your own plot. Those with small spaces or young children can also find out what to grow in containers, for an easy start to home-growing. For more details, visit

* Your summer-flowering bulbs can also be planted as the month progresses. Gladioli, lilies and dahlias are great varieties to add to your garden border or a patio pot. For something a little different, try Eucomis, the pineapple lily; once you see the flower you will see where it gets its name.

* Keep an eye on new spring shoots that are so dearly loved by slugs. There are lots of slug killer products on the market, but for an organic approach protect young shoots by applying Vitax Slug Off granules around the base of your plants.

* Spring growth also brings weeds. Make life easier later in the year by dealing with them now before they get out of hand.

* Now is a good time to lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials like Hosta. Chop through the rootball with a spade and cut into several smaller clumps. Then replant at its original height, saving a clump for a friend if you like.

* Thinking ahead to next winter’s colour, cut back the lovely stems of Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow). Established plants should be pruned hard and the resulting new growth will form vibrant stems next winter.

* Now is the time to tackle late-flowering shrubs like Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush) so that new stems will grow and provide you with flowers this summer. Cut back hard to create a framework of older wood; it sounds alarming but this will prompt lots of new growth. Late-winter/early spring-flowering plants like Lonicera x purpusii (winter honeysuckle) and Forsythia can be trimmed to shape after the flowers fade, but hold on for warmer temperatures before pruning back silver-leaved and tender shrubs such as lavender and Artemesia.

* If it needs it, cut the lawn on a dry day, keeping the blades set high so as not to scalp the grass.

* Later in the month give your rhododendrons, azaleas, pieris and camellias a feed. Remember they are acid-loving plants that hate lime. At the plant centre buy ericaceous (acidic) liquid feed and compost.

* The soil starts to warm up in March, so this is an ideal time to move evergreen shrubs and conifers or to plant new ones. If you plant now, the roots start to grow almost immediately, helping the plants to establish quickly. Pittosporum, Photinia and Viburnum tinus are good varieties to start with.

© Tim Sandall/RHS
Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as Gladioli (above), lilies and dahlias - all great varieties to add to your garden border or a patio pot

Nice to do in your garden in March

* How about a window box herb garden? Small herb plants are available in the plant centres to start you off, or if you have the space outside you can sow chervil, coriander, dill, parsley and rocket.

* Planning ahead as gardeners always do, if you would like to grow pumpkins for the children’s pumpkin party this autumn then buy or order seeds. You can sow them next month, share out the germinated seedlings and see who brings the biggest pumpkin.

* For alpine enthusiasts, replenish gravel and grit mulches around alpine plants to keep them looking fresh and clean as the new shoots break through.

* Does your garden need an injection of colour? For a quick fix, buy bedding flowers, such as vivid primulas and velvety pansies.

* If you bought potted spring daffodils, these can be planted out now. Set them with the top of the bulbs four inches down, not on the surface as they were in the pots. Let the leaves die back naturally to allow the bulbs to make and store energy and they will happily flower next spring.

* If you over-wintered pelargoniums (geraniums) in the greenhouse, now is the time to get them growing again. Pop them into fresh compost, prune back any over-long stems and give them a liquid feed every couple of weeks.

* With the onset of spring you may feel that the birds can now fend for themselves, but supplies have been exhausted over winter so do continue feeding. As they will soon be nesting some cut-up wool for snug nests will be welcomed. In return they will pick off lots of little garden pests as they surface with the warmer weather.

* Place a few cut stems of cherry blossom in a vase to brighten up a room.

* If the idea of spring cleaning your house leaves you cold, how about smartening up your greenhouse instead. Wash frames and cloches inside and out to ensure maximum light passes through the glass at this dull time of year.

* Then it is time for a well-deserved treat. Plant centres are filling up with new stock and as spring is a great time to plan herbaceous perennials, buy yourself some Astrantia, Geranium or oriental poppies and plant them into well-prepared soil.

All images provided courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society. Visit the online print shop at

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