How to Grow Bulbs in Containers


I love to grow spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and tulips in pots.

Not only is it easy to do (you pot up the bulbs in fall when you would normally plant them in the ground), but when spring comes, you have the option to move your pots around wherever you’d like a splash of spring color.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • Most tulip varieties do not return well the following year. After my tulips finish blooming, I add the bulbs to my compost heap and use the container for a new arrangement.
  • Daffodils are much more reliable perennials (and unappetizing to deer and other animals!). After my potted daffodils finish blooming, I pull out the whole clump and replant it somewhere sunny in my garden. The green daffodil leaves will continue feeding the bulbs, and I’ll have daffodils in that spot next year.

Bulbs in pots can be planted more shallowly and closer together than when we plant them in our yards.

Here is my process:

  • Using clean pots and freely-draining potting soil (I sometimes make my own by adding vermiculite to a heavier purchased potting soil), place a single layer of bulbs in your container, a few inches below the surface, depending on the size of the bulb. Bigger bulbs can be planted a little more deeply. Plant them very closely but not touching. Leave enough space to cover with soil up to an inch or so below the surface of your pot. If you fill your pot to the top, you will lose soil every time you water. I also like to cover my soil with fine gravel or pebbles. Then, when I water in spring, the soil doesn’t splash up and dirty my flowers.
  • Label and water very well.
  • Place in a dry, protected place that will stay cold but not too cold over the winter. Bulbs need winter cold in order to bloom, but when they are planted in the ground, soil insulates them from the worst temperature extremes. A cold garage is a good place to keep them until they begin to push up green growth in the spring.
  • Don’t water again until growth begins in spring. Gradually introduce your containers to the bright outdoor light in spring.

I recommend ordering bulbs in the spring when it’s easy to look around and see what you’d like to grow. Your mail-order company (I like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia) will then mail you your bulbs at the right time for planting in the fall.


Posted on

April 20, 2020

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