You can grow bulbs in containers – it’s a wonderful activity for the entire family. If you have children, this is something you can easily do together.
The tough part is teaching them to wait for the bulbs to bloom; because each bulb has its own timetable that will not be rushed by the eager anticipation of a gardener (no matter how young or old!)
Use The Largest Containers You Can
Use large flower pots – the larger the better and fill with a good quality soilless mix to the planting depth desired.
Plant bulbs (it isn’t critical which side goes up or down but pointy end up is a common rule of thumb) and cover over with soil.
Water thoroughly and set for chilling as below.
Tulip ‘Pinocchio’ in container
Do You Have A Deep Pot?
- If you have a deep pot, you can put an inch of soil in the bottom and a layer of bulbs. Cover these bulbs, water thoroughly and then put another layer of bulbs over top of the first.
- Cover these bulbs, water thoroughly and if you have the space, put another layer of bulbs in the pot.
- Cover and water these.
- Keep going for as long as you have the space.
This will give you an amazing show of blooms in the spring and a bulb container gardening showpiece.
Note: this is a very old illustration – ignore the “drainage” layer on the bottom.
Using something on the bottom of pots to improve drainage is an old wive’s tale and shouldn’t be done.
In The Fall
In the fall, Sept-Oct – pot up bulbs such as hyacinths, tulips and daffodils because they will require 10 to 15 weeks of cold treatment to get them into bloom in your bulb container gardening project.
Cold treatment means the bulb has to be kept colder than 48F for the 10-15 weeks.
- For bulbs that do not require chilling, such as paperwhite narcissi and amaryllis, you can plant them to match specific holidays or events.
- Paperwhites will bloom in three to five weeks after you plant them.
- Amaryllis are perfect for bulb container gardening as should bloom six to eight weeks after planting.
- Specific Bulb Requirements
Here are some of the specific bulb requirements for blooming in your container bulb gardening.
No chilling required. They require six to eight weeks of growing time.
For late December bloom, plant in early November.
Each stem will produce 4-6 flowers and the bigger the bulb, the more stems will be produced.
The following varieties are really worth growing:
- ‘Christmas Gift’, white
- ‘Lady Jane’, double, salmon
- ‘Minerva’, red/white striped
- ‘Orange Souvereign’, orange
- ‘Pamela’, small flowering, red
- ‘Picotee’, white with red edge
- ‘Red Lion’, scarlet red ‘
- Rilona’, salmon pink
- ‘Vera’, magenta
You don’t need to chill paperwhites for container bulb gardening. You’ll have flowers for Christmas (or any other event or holiday) if you start them 3-5 weeks ahead of the event. Get different varieties here
Bulbs Needing Chilling
The following bulbs have to be chilled to get them to bloom. You can either do this yourself or you can purchase them as “pre-prepared” or “pre-chilled” bulbs. But no chilling = no blooms.
- Tulips require 14 weeks of chilling to bring them into bloom. This means 14 weeks of growing temperatures under 48F. Once you bring them into 70F, it will take 18-22 days to flower in the full sunshine.
- Daffodils require 15 weeks of chilling at less than 48F to bring them into bud. Then another 2-3 weeks at 70F to force them into bloom.
- Hyacinths have to be chilled for 12 weeks at temperatures below 48F and then another 2-3 weeks at 70F for bulb container gardening efforts.