Planting Flower Bulbs In Containers
by Suzanne DeJohn, Garden Writer
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 in the garden, planting bulbs in containers means that in spring, you can dress up your front entrance, deck, or patio with early spring color just when you need it most. The best way to plant like a professional is to use the "Lasagna Planting" method of layering bulbs. Read on for tips on making the most of your fall planting!
The Lasagna Planting Method With Fall Bulbs
Planting bulbs in containers offers a solution for gardeners who lack the space to create a full garden, or for those who want to maximize their springtime blooms in any space. Growing bulbs in pots will add a colorful accent to patios, decks, a balcony, or an entryway. In the confined space of a planter, you can squeeze in extra bulbs by layering them.
- Place a layer of soil at the bottom of your container.
- Place the largest bulbs at the bottom, such as Tulips or Alliums, and top with soil.
- For the middle layer, try mid-size bulbs such as Daffodils or Hyacinth. Top with soil.
- For the top layer, plant the smallest bulbs, such as Crocus or Grape Hyacinth. The tips of your final layer of bulbs should be just below the surface, with at least an inch or two of soil between the bulbs and the top of the soil.
Tips For Planting Bulbs In Containers
- Choose bulbs with different bloom times to enhance the layering effect and extend your bloom time. For instance, in the example at the top of the page, early-spring Crocus blooms are followed by mid-spring Daffodils, with a final showing from late Tulips.
- To make it easier to move pots around, try planting your bulbs in a plastic pot. In spring, you can move heavier ceramic or terracotta pots around while they're empty, then place your plastic pot of bulbs in the decorative pot.
- Bulbs planted above ground in containers will get much colder than those planted in the ground, and they may need protection over the winter. See below for tips on overwintering containers.
- Did you miss planting bulbs in the ground this fall? Planting in containers at least 12 weeks before your last frost date to take advantage of the planting season while still giving bulbs enough time to chill.
Protecting Fall-Planted Bulbs In Containers
In regions where temperatures drop below freezing for extended periods, you'll need to move the container into a protected spot. Why? In the garden, soil may freeze, but it acts as a natural insulation that protects the bulbs, and it doesn't get as cold as the air temperature. During a cold spell, the air temperature may dip into the teens or single digits (or colder), but the soil won't get nearly that cold. However, in a container, the mass of soil is small so the cold air can penetrate more readily. If the soil temperature drops too much the bulbs may be damaged.
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 over the top, such as straw or leaves.
- 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.
Finally, 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.
In regions where temperatures don't drop 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.