Product Review – Empathy Bulb Starter


In order to be completely transparent about this blog post id like to say up front Empathy did bung me a couple of packets of their mycorrhiza Rootgrow and Bulb Starter for gratis. They haven’t chucked any money at me (not that id object if they did) and they have neither sought nor have I given them any say over what is written here. Right! now we’ve got all that awkwardness out of the way, I’ll begin!

Some of you may remember the absolute trauma I had with some of my Snowdrop bulbs in the spring of 2019. Possibly due to the ridiculous heatwave of 2018 or to be honest any number of reasons I lost around 50% of my special snowdrops including 7 bulbs of Wendy’s gold that I had been treasuring since 2016. One thing I did know wasn’t the problem was Narcissus Bulb Fly.

This horrid little blighter lays its eggs at the neck of your bulbs and the maggots burrow down to eat the bulb from the inside out. Below is one I found just the other day at Ulting Wick. It is of this earth no longer!

Narcissus bulb fly maggots and a trashed bulb

I started trying to find the cause of my sudden bulb death as it wasn’t just the really rare ones that I lost, on tipping ‘Magnet’ out I discovered 2 very sad sorry wasted looking bulbs struggling to hold onto life. Thankfully the Alpine Garden Society published an article detailing experiments with mycorrhizal fungi by the late David Way. Several well respected Snowdrop people were involved.

To sum it up glibly in a few words, mycorrhizal fungi added to Snowdrops ‘in the green’ when potting up can massively improve growth, bulb health etc. Even better if you can provide the mycorrhizal fungi a host, such as grass, to attach itself to once the bulb goes dormant.

This is where Serendipity kicked in, in the form of the Garden Press Event.


After chatting to the chap at Empathy about their Rootgrow product I asked if it was suitable for use with bulbs as well as perennials and trees. He immediately told me that they did a specific product for bulbs and would I like to try some out? Of course, id be delighted I replied and so here we are a year on with the results of the said trial!

Now of course my results are not really scientific, I didn’t really have a “control”, different snowdrops grow differently to others. Some were potted up before the bulb starter arrived, others after. There were different potting mixes involved etc. However I can unequivocally say that the bulbs which I used the Bulb Starter on did way better than the ones I didn’t.

Bulbs ready for potting… finger for scale
Bulb starter 

The top growth, amount of flowers, size and amount of bulbs produced and root formation is just stunning!


And finally the proof of the pudding etc… The smallest amount of bulking up was 3 excellent sized bulbs from 1 and the most ridiculously good result was from Trumps which gave me 6 good sized bulbs! SIX!!

snowdrop empathy


5 Replies to “Product Review – Empathy Bulb Starter”

  1. Very interesting Lou. Thank you. Why do you grow the bulbs in pots in the first place, instead of directly in the ground? Is it a quicker way of increasing the number of bulbs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They would much prefer, long term, being in the ground (and you can still plant using the bulb starter) but ive been keeping mine in pots due to the amounts of moving about ive done over the last 10 or so years. Ive potted them back up in pots but in a huge step for me 3 sets of bulbs did actually make it into the ground last year!


  2. Impressive! And Is there much difference between the regular Rootgrow and the Bulb one? Did they say? I ask because I’ve just invested in a HUGE carton of Rootgrow and don’t really want to spend any more on a different one for bulbs, even though I’ve had some disastrous results with snowdrops of every kind in my garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lynne, this is an excellent question which I would love to give you a firm answer to. However I cant, not exactly. From what I cant tell the actual Fungi IS the same but the added NPK foods may be slightly different. A pack of Bulb Starter is £5.99 and the best thing I could suggest is perhaps and experiment using both? I feel confident in saying you wont hurt your bulbs using your Rootgrow, sorry I cant be more helpful.


      1. Thanks. It’s probably lower NPK on the bulb mix. If I get around to it, I may ask the company – just out of interest.


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