Start Growing

Start Growing

Let's face it, growing alpines is a bit daunting. These are plants that come from exotic locations, growing in extreme conditions, needing years of experience to get results, right? Well, no, not necessarily. Of course there are many hard-to-grow alpines, but many - maybe even most - are not. This page aims to give you the basic information you need to get started.

It's a work in progress - keep coming back to see what has been added.

Showing Alpines

Gavin Moore wrote this in 2014 to encourage members to start growing some easy plants and bulbs, with a view to exhibiting them at either of our shows. I went to Murphy and Woods (the garden centre mentioned) in September 2016 and most of the bulbs were available then too.

Two dozen plants suitable for showing in Section C

SectionC is the beginners section for showing plants in the annual AGS Show. George Sevastopulo put this together in 2013 to help those who would like to get into showing plants.

Starting With Bulbs

We often hear that people think showing alpines is a bit daunting.  There is no logical reason for this. There is unlimited help and advice for new exhibitors, and the Show Day is one of the most enjoyable days of the gardening year.  Part of the problem could be that getting a plant to show condition at the exact right time for the show can be tricky, especially if the plant is slow growing or shy to flower.  Luckily, there is a simple way to get started: growing bulbs is the easiest way to get a plant to the show bench. Bulbs that you buy now are guaranteed to flower in the spring, and they couldn’t be simpler to grow, leaving the only difficulty being the timing.


All the garden centres now have their spring bulbs in stock and though many varieties are suitable for showing, many are not.  So below is a list of suitable bulbs that I’ve seen available, however there are many more in other garden centres or online. If you are not sure if a bulb is suitable, just ask one of the many experienced exhibitors.  Another good indicator is the height of the flower. Anything over 25cm is likely to be less suitable, but that’s just an indicator. Suitability is an important factor as if the judges deem the plant not to be suitable, it will be marked down as such.

Bringing bulbs to flowering in the spring couldn’t be simpler.  Use a standard alpine compost mix of equal parts John Innes, grit and Perlite.  Good drainage is essential. The bulbs need to be buried at a depth 2-3 times their height and can be grown reasonably densely in the pot.  Top up the compost, and put on a good top dressing of grit that will be used on show day. Water the pot, put it outside, and ignore it completely until the spring when the leaves appear.  At that stage, the only additional care needed is to protect the plant from wind or any weather that could physically damage it. That’s it. It’s so simple a 10-year-old could do it. To prove that statement, my 10-year-old daughter Alice is going to grow some bulbs this year, and hopefully will have them on a show bench in April.

  • Fritillaria meleagris
  • Fritillaria meleagris ‘Alba’
  • Erythronium ‘Pagoda’
  • Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’
  • Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’
  • Erythronium californicum ‘White Beauty’
  • Narcissus jonquilla ‘Baby Moon’
  • Narcissus tazetta canaliculatus
  • Tulipa saxatilis
  • Tulia clusiana
  • Tulia clusiana chrysantha
  • Tulipa tarda


Index of Newsletter Cultivation Articles

Number 46 Summer 2006P10Lewisia tweedyi
Number 46 Summer 2006P11/12Primula auricula
Number 47 Winter 2007P11-13Juno Irises
Number 47 Winter 2007P16Ranunculus parnassifolius
Number 48 Summer 2007P13Ramondas
Number 49 Winter 2008P10-13Erythroniums
Number 49 Winter 2008P 17Pleione Aurita
Number 49 Winter 2008P19-24Growing Alpines from seed
Number 50 Summer 2008P21/22Primula veris
Number 51 Winter 2009P30/31Physoplexis comosa
Number 53 Winter 2010P19-21Shortias
Number 54 Summer 2010P19/20Easy Bulbs for Showing
Number 55 Winter 2011P11-13Choice Daisies
Number 57 Winter 2012P10/11 Primulas for the Open Garden
Number 59 Winter 2013P14-16The Trumpet Gentian
Number 60 Summer 2013P11-13Sempervivums, Pulsatilla vulgaris, Primula denticulata, Fritillaria meleagris, Andromeda polifolia
Number 61 Winter 2014P9/10Violas
Number 61 Winter 2014P12-17Hepaticas
Number 62 Summer 2014P12/13Gypsophila
Number 63 Winter 2015P12/13Seed sowing
Number 64 Summer 2015P10/11Pulsatilla vulgaris
Number 65 Winter 2016P10/11Kalmiopsis
Number 67 Winter 2017P11/12Calceolaria uniflora
Number 68 Summer 2017P13/14The ‘Wharfedale’ primulas
Number 69 Winter 2018P8/9Watering alpines in pots
Number 69 Winter 2018P10-16Daphnes
Number 70 Summer 2018P8/9Ranunculaceae
Number 71 Winter 2019P9-19Cyclamen persicum
Number 73 Winter 2020P8-11European gesneriads
Number 75 Winter 2021P10-12Trillium rivale
Number 75 Winter 2021P35-40Saxifrages