Planting Bulbs in Containers

by Suzanne DeJohn

planting bulbs in containers layers

Learn to layer fall-planted bulbs in a container for non-stop spring color, right outside your door!

Spring may seem a long time away, but if you want to enjoy tulips, crocus and other spring bloomers, now is the time to plant. In addition to planting out in the garden, consider planting bulbs in containers. In spring, you can use them to dress up your front entrance, deck or patio, providing early spring color just when you need it most.

In regions where temperatures don't drop much below freezing, planting bulbs in containers is easy. Simply pot them up, planting them at the same depth you'd plant them in the garden. In the confined space of a planter, you can squeeze in extra bulbs by layering them. Plant large bulbs like tulips and add more soil. Finally, plant small bulbs like crocus just an inch or two deep. Water thoroughly, and keep the soil moist (but not wet) through winter.

Planting Bulbs in Containers Like a Pro

Learn to layer fall-planted bulbs in a container for non-stop spring color, right outside your door!
  1. Large Cupped Daffodil Bulbs Ice Follies, Narcissus

    This large-cupped daffodil beauty brings elegance to the spring garden with strong, white petals and a ruffled, yellow center. Make sure to plant extra for gorgeous spring bouquets! ...

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    Ice Follies Large Cupped Daffodil Large Cupped Daffodil Ice Follies Narcissus Ice Follies
    $10.65 Sale $7.99
    Per Bag of 8
    This large-cupped daffodil beauty brings elegance to the spring garden with strong, white petals and a ruffled, yellow center. Make sure to plant extra for gorgeous spring bouquets! (Narcissus)
  2. White Double Daffodil Bulbs Cheerfulness, Narcissus, Double Flowering Daffodils

    Cheerfulness is the classic, fragrant multi-flowering double that started it all. Like a sweet smelling gardenia. (Narcissus)...

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    Cheerfulness Double Daffodil Double Flowering Daffodil Cheerfulness Narcissus Cheerfulness
    $8.65 Sale $6.49
    Per Bag of 8
    Cheerfulness is the classic, fragrant multi-flowering double that started it all. Like a sweet smelling gardenia. (Narcissus)
  3. Orange and White Daffodil Bulbs Sweet Love, Narcissus jonquilla, Daffodils

    Elegant, pure-white petals are offset by a gorgeous, golden-yellow cup. Sweet Love is a must-have for any Daffodil lover and makes for cheerful spring bouquets....

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    Sweet Love Daffodil Daffodil Sweet Love Narcissus jonquilla Sweet Love
    $9.32 Sale $6.99
    Per Bag of 8
    Elegant, pure-white petals are offset by a gorgeous, golden-yellow cup. Sweet Love is a must-have for any Daffodil lover and makes for cheerful spring bouquets.
  4. Orange and Yellow Miniature Daffodil Bulbs Jetfire, Narcissus cyclamineus, Daffodil

    This dwarf daffodil has deep yellow petals and a corona that ranges from orange to red, creating floral fireworks when it blooms. (Narcissus cyclamineus)...

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    Jetfire Miniature Daffodil Daffodil Jetfire Narcissus cyclamineus Jetfire
    $9.32 Sale $6.99
    Per Bag of 8
    This dwarf daffodil has deep yellow petals and a corona that ranges from orange to red, creating floral fireworks when it blooms. (Narcissus cyclamineus)

Where temperatures drop below freezing for extended periods, you'll need to move the container into a protected spot. Why? Because in the garden, soil may freeze but it doesn't get as cold as the air temperature. During a cold spell, air temperature may dip into the teens or single digits (or colder), but the soil won't get nearly that cold. In a container, on the other hand, the mass of soil is small compared to the soil in the garden, so the cold air can penetrate more readily.

If the soil temperature drops too much the bulbs may be damaged.

Protecting Your Fall-Planted Bulbs in Containers

Here are a few ways to protect your bulb-filled containers:

  • Move the pots into a shed, unheated garage or another place where temperatures remain cool but don't dip too far below freezing.
  • Dig a hole in the garden large enough to accommodate the container. Place the pot in the hole, fill in around it with soil and add a blanket of loose mulch, like straw or leaves, over the top.
  • Use chicken wire or hardware cloth to build a cylinder around the pot, then fill it with straw or leaves to insulate against the chill.
blooming plantersblooming planters
Blooming planters herald the arrival of spring.

In early spring once nighttime temperatures stay above freezing, remove any protective mulch or unearth the container, then move it to where you can enjoy the flowers to come.

  1. Anemone blanda Bulb Mix, Anemone blanda, Grecian Windflower

    Daisy-shaped flowers in jewel-toned colors bloom atop ferny foliage on this world-famous wildflower native to Greece. Give these anemone room to spread and you'll soon have a beautif...

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    Anemone blanda Mix Grecian Windflower Mix Anemone blanda Mix
    $9.32 Sale $6.49
    Per Bag of 25
    Daisy-shaped flowers in jewel-toned colors bloom atop ferny foliage on this world-famous wildflower native to Greece. Give these anemone room to spread and you'll soon have a beautiful living carpet of 4-6" low-growing flowers. (Anemone blanda)
  2. Summer Hyacinth, Galtonia candicans

    The nodding white bells of Summer Hyacinth add a simple elegance to your late summer garden. These stunning vertical accents can carry up to thirty fresh white flowers, each one ting...

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    Summer Hyacinth Summer Hyacinth Galtonia candicans
    $18.65 Sale $13.98
    Per Bag of 5
    The nodding white bells of Summer Hyacinth add a simple elegance to your late summer garden. These stunning vertical accents can carry up to thirty fresh white flowers, each one tinged with a hint of green near the base of the petals above strong green leaves. Lightly fragrant flowers are deer-resistant and extremely attractive to bees and other pollinators, while making for lovely cut flowers. (Galtonia)
  3. Peppermint Stick Tulip, Tulipa clusiana Peppermint Stick

    Treasured for its dual-toned blooms and a tendency to return year after year, 'Peppermint Stick' Tulip is a low-growing species tulip with plenty of punch in a petite frame. In mid-s...

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    Peppermint Stick Tulip Peppermint Stick Tulip Tulipa clusiana Peppermint Stick
    As low as $9.99
    Per Bag of 15
    Treasured for its dual-toned blooms and a tendency to return year after year, 'Peppermint Stick' Tulip is a low-growing species tulip with plenty of punch in a petite frame. In mid-spring, the delicately pointed blooms reveal pure white centers flanked by outer petals with a red-pink reverse. 'Peppermint Stick' is an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner and naturalizes in a well-drained, sunny spot. (Tulipa clusiana)
  4. Grape Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum

    When densely planted, the world-famous Grape Hyacinth creates a carpet in vivid blue. Great with daffodils or anywhere for early Spring lush color. (Muscari armeniacum)...

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    Grape Hyacinth Grape Hyacinth Muscari armeniacum
    As low as $14.65 Sale $14.36
    Per Bag of 64
    When densely planted, the world-famous Grape Hyacinth creates a carpet in vivid blue. Great with daffodils or anywhere for early Spring lush color. (Muscari armeniacum)
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