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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!

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 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.