Bulbs in Containers

daffodils in a container

Why Grow Bulbs in Containers?

This fall, when you are planting bulbs in your garden for early flowers next spring, why not plant some bulbs in containers too? It's easy to do, and next spring you can move the pots around your garden to add a splash of color exactly where you want it.

How To Plant

Pot

Choose a suitable pot. Size is important; bulbs will need enough depth to develop their root system. Usually, pots with a 10 to 12 inch diameter are big enough for eight to twelve tulips or daffodils. A larger pot is suitable for a mixture of bulbs.If you live in an area with harsh winters, don't use a clay pot. The freeze-thaw cycle is likely to break the pot.

Drainage

Good drainage is essential! Make sure the pot has plenty of drainage holes in its bottom. Enlarge the holes or drill more if necessary.Place a layer of drainage material at the bottom of the container. Old-fashioned gardeners called this "crocking" because they used pieces of broken pots or crocks for this layer. If you'll be moving the container, you may choose to use biodegradable packaging peanuts, which are not toxic like other packing peanuts and are much lighter in weight than using just soil.

Soil

You can use topsoil or potting soil in your container. Make sure it is a light, loamy soil and not a heavy clay-like soil, since you want to encourage good drainage. Wet the soil slightly before you begin filling the pot, so that it is easier to handle.

Procedure

Place the drainage material at the bottom of the pot.

Add a few inches of soil. You can mix some bulb fertilizer into this layer if you prefer. The amount of soil you add at this step will depend on the kind of bulb you are planting, since different bulbs are planted at different depths. For example, if you are planting tulips, stop adding soil eight or nine inches below the rim of the pot; if you are planting hyacinth, continue adding soil until you reach about five inches below the rim of the pot.

Put the bulbs in the pot. Space them evenly, and make sure they're placed the right way up, with the roots on the bottom.

Fill the rest of the pot with soil. Water the bulbs, and you're finished!

Spring Flowering Bulbs

flowering bulbs in a container

Any spring-flowering bulb will look great in a container! You'll certainly want daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, but consider planting some of the small bulbs like crocus, chionodoxa, and grape hyacinth as well.You can even mix a variety of bulbs in the same pot. When you're planting, place the bulbs that are normally planted at the deepest level (usually tulips or daffodils) in the pot first. Add soil, and stop when you're at the right depth for mid-level bulbs (for example, hyacinths). Add those bulbs, and add more soil. When the pot is fill to three or four inches below the rim, add shallowly-planted bulbs like crocus. Top off the pot with the remaining soil.

This technique will let you mix different colors and shapes of flowers together or provide a succession of bloom all spring.

If you live in an area with relatively mild winters, considering planting pansies or some other hardy winter-flowering plant in the top level of the pot. If you do, you can enjoy flowers even before your bulbs bloom!

Precautions

In areas with severe winters, the pots may need a little extra protection. Bulbs in pots are more exposed to the weather than bulbs in the ground, so they are more vulnerable to damage from freeze/thaw cycles. Be sure to plant bulbs early enough to allow good root development before the soil freezes. After it is frozen, shelter the pot in the garage, under the porch, or even in an unheated basement. Alternatively, you could protect the pot with wrappings and lots of mulch.

Uses

flowering bulbs in a container

If you fill a pot with a single kind of bulb -- for example, red tulips or yellow daffodils -- you will be able to place that color exactly where you want it when the bulbs bloom, even if that spot would not be a good site for bulbs planted in the ground.Emphasize your entryway or patio with a series of containers filled with blooming bulbs!

You can add height to a flower bed with bulbs grown in containers. Often, a bed full of plants all the same height is a little boring, even if the flowers are beautiful. Adding a large pot of flowering bulbs will add interest to the landscape. If you need an even higher accent, put the pot on a base to increase its height. An upside-down bucket will do.

Bulbs in Containers