Bulbs · Container Gardening

Plant bulbs in pots!


I don’t understand why folks don’t plant spring-flowering bulbs in the fall. Sure, I’ve heard the excuses:

  • I’m tired of working in the garden by the time fall rolls around.
  • My clay soil makes it difficult to use a bulb planter.
  • It’s so much work and it takes so long to see the results of my efforts.

Planting bulbs takes no more energy than planting annuals or perennials. And sure, clay soil can be aggravating but gardeners continually strive to improve their soil. Too much work? Are you kidding me? It is easy to plant fifty bulbs during half-time of a football game. I know because I’ve done it.

If you are still digging your heels (instead of bulbs) in the soil, here’s a way to plant bulbs quickly and easily.


Plant them in pots! All you need is containers with drainage holes, a good quality potting mix, bulb fertilizer and the bulbs.

Any bulbs can be grown in containers – just remember the larger the bulb, the larger the container needs to be. Bulbs need a minimum of two to three inches of soil beneath them, and they should be planted about two times as deep as the diameter of the bulb.


Pour a few inches of potting mix into the pot, add superphosphate or bulb fertilizer, and mix it into the potting mix. Always use the amount of fertilizer recommended on the package. More is not better.


Press bulbs, pointy side up, firmly into the potting mix. In pots, bulbs can be spaced much closer together. If you are only planting one kind of bulb, they can be planted shoulder to shoulder. I like to plant two or more types in layers in the same pot, so I leave a bit more room between them.

If you are planting tulips, notice each bulb has a flat side. If the flat side is positioned outward, the leaves and flowers will grow outward softening the edges of the pot.


After the first layer is planted, add more potting mix so bulbs are covered with an inch or two of soil. Plant the second layer of bulbs just as the first.


If you appreciate the minor bulbs – crocus, grape hyacinths, scilla, and more – like I do, add a third layer of these petite bulbs toward the top of the pot.


Top off the pot with potting mix to within an inch or two of the rim. Water thoroughly until moisture runs through the drainage holes. Keep the potting mix moist, but not soggy, until bulbs are ready to rest for the winter. There is a lot of action happening beneath the surface as roots grow.

To duplicate the conditions bulbs planted in the ground receive, bulbs in pots need to chill eight to fourteen weeks at temperatures just above freezing. I stack the pots against an interior wall in our unheated garage where it is cold and dark much of the time.

Check the soil every couple of weeks to make sure the potting mix does not dry out, but don’t overwater. Too much water will cause bulbs to rot. I only sprinkled water on my pots once last winter.

Early in the spring, at about the same time bulbs planted in the garden begin to emerge, keep an eye on pots. When leaf tips protrude from the potting mix, it’s time to move them outdoors to a spot with dappled sunlight. As they grow, gradually move them into brighter conditions. Keep them well watered as they grow.



When containers are showy enough, move them to a porch or patio. Enjoy!


See how easy it is to plant spring-flowering bulbs? So no more excuses. Purchase some bulbs and garden with me!







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