Tuesday’s Tips – Potting Bulbs

Mary Beth: I have bulbs on the brain. Bulbs in the garden bed, bulbs in a meadow, bulbs in pots, there are bulbs everywhere! I’ve just finished planting 300 daffodils in my new meadow and now I have a bunch of garlic bulbs to plant this week. The mass daffodil planting is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and the opportunity presented itself recently when we had a new gas line put in. Serendipitously, I came across John Greenlee’s amazing book The American Meadow Garden. One look inside and I was determined to make it happen.

But I digress. This post is about bulbs in pots. The meadow will be another post – coming soon, I promise.

A few years back Horticulture Magazine had an article about planting bulbs in pots and it’s stuck with me. They showed a beautiful spring blooming pot with Muscari, Hyacinth, Pansies and Forget Me Nots that I’ve always wanted to try. Since I’m in bulb planting mode, I decided to plant up a few pots for the spring.

I went to Native Roots Garden Center in Durango and found their great selection of bulbs. Not only that, but I was informed that I had reward points from all the shopping I’ve done there this season so I was going to get a discount. Yea!

Here’s what I bought:

  • A large bag of potting soil — enough for three pots
  • Yum Yum Mix fertilizer — also going to use this when I plant my garlic
  • 15 Giant Grape Hyacinth ‘Bellevalia’
  • 10 Tulips ‘Lilac Wonder’
  • 15 Siberian Squill
  • 8 Tulip ‘Apricot Beauty’
  • 15 Tulip ‘Bronze Charm’
  • 8 Daffodils ‘Tete a Tete’

After talking with the good folks at Native Roots and doing some research, here’s how I planted my pots:

1. Good drainage is important so the bulbs don’t rot. I placed some small pebbles on the bottom of the pots with a paper towel covering the drainage holes to keep the rocks and soil from coming out. I topped that with fast draining potting soil sprinkled with some fertilizer. I added Yum Yum Mix (love this stuff), but a moderately fertile potting soil will suffice.

2. I filled the pots to 5 inches below the rim. Plant your bulbs at the appropriate depth (you will find directions on the package), adjusting the soil level as needed. All the bulbs I chose require the same planting depth of 5″. I planted them very close together in groups of 4 – 7, leaving a little space empty for the pansies that I’ll add in the spring to complete my beautiful spring-blooming pots!

3. Top off with more potting soil and water well.

4. Set the container in a shady, sheltered spot covering with mulch if you’re in a very cold area. I’m going to store my pots in a box insulated with balled up newspaper on our deck. Since they’ll won’t be getting any rain in this location, I’ll check on them throughout the winter and water them (once a month or so) if they begin to dry out. If you’re worried about clay pots cracking in the freezing temperatures, you can use plastic pots or non-porous containers.

5. When the first stems began to show in the spring, move the pots into the sun, water regularly and enjoy the show.

So that’s it for now. Hopefully I will be showing photos of my success 6 or 7 months from now.

If you live in a mild-winter climate like Barbara does in Southern California, refrigerate your bulbs in paper bags (away from ripening fruit) for six weeks before planting.

When I selected my potting bulbs, I paid attention more to colors and favorite flowers than to blooming times. You can arrange it so your bulbs bloom all at the same time, or you can stagger the flowering by reading the labels for bloom times and arranging your pots with that in mind.

Don’t delay picking up your bulbs. The sooner you get there the better selection you’ll find.

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