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GardenSMART :: Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs In Containers

Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs In Containers

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

While out this season planting bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and other spring-bloomers, put some aside and pot up a container or two. Gardeners who regularly pot up amaryllis or paperwhites for the holidays often don't think to grow spring bulbs in pots that will bloom outdoors long after the indoor flowers are just a memory. It's as quick and easy as potting up annuals. Plus, it brings a breath of spring to your front door, porch or patio, where you can enjoy the flowers up close.

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To start, choose good-sized pots, at least 10 inches wide and deep. Flexible plastic and fiberglass are best because they are light and won't crack if water freezes and expands. Terra cotta, brittle plastic, or ceramic pots are fine as long as you overwinter them in a spot where moist soil won't freeze and thaw. Make sure pots have drainage holes.

You can also plant the bulbs in green or black plastic liner pots and slip those into more attractive containers (also with drainage holes) once the bulb foliage emerges.

Use a bagged potting mix, not garden soil, which is too heavy. There should be at least two inches of soil at the bottom of the pot, to allow for root growth. Fill the container with potting soil, water, and let the soil settle. Do this until the moist soil has settled to the planting depth of the bulbs. Plant the bulbs as deep as you would in the ground as per the planting instructions.

Set the bulbs firmly in the pot at the recommended depth, close together, but not touching each other or the sides of the container. Cover with more potting soil and water them in.

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You can also layer different bulbs in one pot. Again, follow the planting instructions for depth. The largest bulbs are planted at the deepest level, followed closer to the surface by the smaller bulbs such as grape hyacinth, glory-of-the-snow or scilla. Depending on whether you choose early-, mid-, or late-blooming varieties of tulips and daffodils, you'll have weeks of staggered bloom, or one big glorious display.

Move the container to a cool, dark, and frost-free place, such as a basement, shed or garage. Temperatures should be between 35 and 40 degrees F and the space shouldn't heat up during the day. Check the container periodically over the winter and water if the soil seems dry, but don't let it get soggy or the bulbs can rot.

Most bulbs need 8 to 14 weeks of cold temperatures in order to bloom. In early spring you should see green shoots coming up. As long as air temperatures are above freezing, bring the pots out to a sheltered place. In a few days, the containers can move into the sun.

Continue to water as needed. At this point you can also fill in any bare spots with cold-tolerant spring flowers, such as pansies or ranunculus.

After the bloom is finished, plant daffodils and other bulbs in the garden. They may not bloom the next spring, but should after that. Tulips don't give as good a show after the first year, so they can be composted. 


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