How to: Plant spring bulbs in containers

Tulip Pots Web Oct 14
Planting bulbs is an easy way to ensure colourful displays in your garden, particularly in spring before the rest of the garden has woken from its winter slumbers. Bulbs can be planted in containers or borders, and look particularly effective when naturalised in grass. 

What you'll need:

  • Bulbs
  • Containers
  • Potting Soil
  • Water

Step 1
When growing bulbs in a pot, pick a container that is the right size and will complement your chosen bulbs. Anything that has drainage holes and is deep enough to accommodate a few inches of soil and the bulbs works as a container. You'll need to allow a 1-inch space between the tip of the bulb and the rim of the pot

Step 2
If you are using a clay pot with a large drainage hole in the base, cover it with a piece of broken pot.

Step 3
Add 3 inches of potting mix to the container, and firm it gently. Place a bulb on the soil, and twist it a quarter-turn to give it some grip in the soil. Add the rest of the bulbs, spacing them no more than 1/2-inch apart.

Step 4
Add more potting mix around the bulbs, firming it into place with your fingers. The tips of the bulbs should barely show through the soil surface.

Step 5
Water well until some moisture leaks from the drainage holes. If channels or holes develop in the potting mix, fill them with moistened potting mix.

Step 6
Water after planting.


• Bulbs in pots need more care than those in soil.

• Keep the compost moist and protect from frost by wrapping with bubble wrap over winter. Cover with a piece of chicken wire to prevent squirrels, mice and voles from digging them out. Remove it when shoots appear.

• Check pots regularly. During the chilling phase, the bulbs are growing roots, so it's important that the potting mix not dry out. Check regularly for moisture by sticking your finger into the potting mix. If it feels dry an inch deep, fill the pot to the rim with water, and allow it to drain. Be careful not to overwater-excess moisture can lead to rot.

• Watch for emerging top growth. After six to eight weeks of chilling, green shoots should begin to emerge. If you live in a mild climate, this should coincide with the emergence of bulbs in outdoor beds. If you live in a cold-winter region, keep the containers in their cool place until you wish to encourage growth.

• Place containers where they will receive light. Temperatures over 75° F push bulbs to grow too quickly, resulting in floppy, leggy top growth. A location in light shade should provide the right balance of light and moderate temperatures. To ensure that your bulbs stand erect, you can support top growth with flower rings or stakes and twine.

• If you want to save these bulbs, water regularly after the blossoms fade. The leaves will eventually start to turn yellow and dry up. When the leaves have completely turned dry and brown, empty the pot onto your compost pile. Retrieve the bulbs and allow the soil that clings to them to dry. Remove dead foliage, brush off dry soil, and store the bulbs in a cool, dry place. In the fall, plant these bulbs-except tulips, which don't re-bloom well-in a garden bed and purchase new bulbs to pot up in containers.

Top Tips

• Extend the bloom period by planting separate containers with varieties that have various bloom dates (early, mid-, and late season).

• Face the flat side of tulip bulbs outward toward the wall of the pot. When the leaves and blossom stalks emerge, they'll grow up and outward, instead of crowding toward the center.

• You can plant various bulbs in a single container-but be sure to select varieties that are timed to blossom simultaneously (lasagne planting). Plant bulbs in layers in deeper containers, with large bulbs deeper and small bulbs closer to the surface. Space bulbs so they aren't planted on top of one another.