It is not at all difficult to plant bulbs in pots and I plant quite a few, especially tulips. This year I’m not going to dare to plant tulips in the flowerbeds at all due to not wanting to feed the voles. Last winter they devastated a big flowerbed and they have not disappeared since then unfortunately. More about them in a future post.
When should you plant bulbs in pots?
Tulips can be planted very late, in my experience also crocuses, anemone blanda, scilla and a few other bulbs – provided they get a chans to get rooted even if they were planted late before it freezes or kept in a garage or shed where it dosen’t freeze at all. Even as late as December works I have discovered. It is recommended though that all bulbs (apart from tulips, which do not need it) should be planted as early as possible in the autumn due to the risk of them drying out otherwise. It is smaller bulbs mostly that naturally dry out quicker than bigger ones, but it is also recommended to plant the narcissus as early as possible as well.
- It is fine to use ‘old’ soil for summer pots. The bulbs do not really need any freshly fertilized soil to bloom. To fertilize with bonemeal is good but I only do that with the bulbs that are being planted in the flowerbeds and those which are perennials; narcissus etc. I don’t see the point of fertilizing when planting the bulbs that are expected to be annuals and the ones I know will end up on the compost heap after they have bloomed.
- The pots should have drainage. I mostly use zinc buckets but also even larger plastic and clay pots. The plastic pots will later end up in baskets when it is time to put them out in the garden.
- I plants tulip bulbs at about 10-15 cm depth, smaller bulbs more shallow. The planting depth is not really necessary, but about 3 times the bulbs height is a good guideline. If it becomes a bit less it still tends to work.
- After planting, all the pots are watered so the rooting will get going quickly.
Can you plant all kinds of bulbs in pots?
I have not tried all kinds of bulbs, but I would probably say that you can. I have not succeeded with all the ones I have potted and it has been due to different things, from the pots being left out unprotected for too long in the autumn (they have rotted due to rain and the approaching cold), to the bulbs being planted too late and then freezing too quickly in the pots. This did not give them enough time to get rooted before it froze and the whole process got off-beat, this is mainly to do with the narcissi.
What will end up in the pots this year for me?
There will be an array of different botanical tulips. It does feel very boring to not put them in the flowerbeds since many of them are perennial bulbs and respond so well. But shame on she who stops trying. I will put some in pots instead but will also try to make small ‘planting cages’ out of fine chicken wire to plant bulbs in. Hopefully the voles won’t get into them. It will be a test. Besides botanical tulips there will also be ten different varieties of ‘usual’ tulips in my standard colours: white/crème, dark red/aubergine and apricot/orange. Yes, all bulbs have mainly that colour scheme together with yellow. The anemones are really pretty in pots so some of those as well and also dog tooth violet and a few fritillaries and alliums.
This year’s tulips
‘Queen of Night’, ‘Uncle Tom’, ‘Indeland’ ‘Exotic Emperor’, ‘Maureen’, ‘La Belle Epoque’, ‘Request’, ‘Apricona’, ‘Apricot Beauty’, ‘Jackpot’ & botanical ones: Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’, Tulipa batalinii ‘Bright Gem’, Tulipa sylvestris, Tulipa turkestanica.
Storage of the pots
At mine the pots get to be outside for a few weeks at first (mostly due to the greenhouse, where they are to be stored later, being still full). The pots can be stored outside during the winter but protection from rain and moisture is important, otherwise they might freeze rot. The optimal place is a cold garage or shed. They don’t need any light until the plant is protruding. I keep my pots in the greenhouse because it is the only place that works here. Also I want them to benefit from the warmth that naturally occurs at spring time in a greenhouse, to help get the process going a bit earlier than if they had been outside. At some point in March I also start raising new seedling in the greenhouse and this means a small heater gets put on to keep the temperature above zero at all times. It makes it go even faster with the pots. I truly value being able to take out the tulips when not much else has started to grow. To kick start spring. Help it on its way. To flower up what has not yet budded.