Garden writer and designer Phyllis Gricus is the owner of Landscape Design Studio and is passionate about creating sustainable and imaginative gardens. She regularly writes about gardens, garden practices and gardeners she admires.

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Spring-Flowering Bulbs in Containers
by Phyllis Gricus    

It is never too late to plant those spring-blooming bulbs that somehow never got planted. Pot up bulbs in containers to create a mini-garden that will delight you come springtime.

You ogled their colorful blooms in the bulb catalog. Placed your order. The bulbs arrived in time for fall planting — and then came winter! Whatever the reason, winter came early, you were late — the ground is frozen, and you have a multitude of bulbs. Bulbs are living plants, not seeds, they will dry out and die if not planted. What to do? Plant them in containers!

Things you’ll need: clean planting pots, soil mixture, bulb fertilizer.

Time it will take: Well, that depends on how many bulbs you ordered and didn’t get in the ground. Oh, and how long winter lasts. (A few worthwhile hours.) We’re not forcing the bulbs, but planting them to bloom at the usual time.

1. The type of container (plastic versus clay, decorative versus pot liner) is a personal preference. Do, however, choose containers that allow for root growth, (a minimum 6 inches) as well as proper planting depth. The rule of thumb is to plant three times as deep as the bulb is long. Choose pots that are deep rather than shallow.
2. Good drainage is a key factor for successful bulb container plantings. If your pot does not come with a hole in it, create one. Drill or poke one or more holes for good drainage. Cover large holes with drainage material to prevent soil from spilling out. No need to fill bottom with pot shards; the holes in the container will offer sufficient drainage.
3. The soil mix is also critical for a favorable outcome. The planting medium should contain equal parts peat moss, potting soil, sand and vermiculite or perlite. Mix thoroughly and moisten to a damp consistency. Combine 1 tablespoon of bonemeal and a 10-10-10 dry fertilizer per square foot of soil mix. The fertilizer will help the bulbs reenergize for the next year’s blooms.
4. Fill container with a minimum of 6 inches of planting medium, more if you’re working with a very deep container. You may also layer assorted bulbs that require different planting depths. For example: Place daffodils first, add more soil, then tulips, more soil and top off with crocus.
5. Place your container in an unheated garage or better yet, heel them in a sheltered corner of your garden by covering them with leaves. If placed in the garage remember to water them. Allow for the pots to dry in between waterings. Avoid overwatering since this can result in bulb rot. Place the garaged containers outside when foliage pokes through the soil. If you have problems with squirrels, cover the top of the container with wire mesh to prevent them from feasting on the bulbs.
6. Transplant bulbs into a permanent spot in your garden after they’ve flowered but before they die back completely. Alternatively (and I think more work), allow bulbs to go dormant (when foliage has yellowed) in the container, remove the bulbs, brush off soil and store them in a well-ventilated dry box for the summer, then replant in the garden in fall.

Place your spring-blooming containers outside in the garden bed, at your door, or in a fun and funky lawn display. Blooming containers can even be brought indoors (for a short term) to add fragrance and color to your home. Best of all you’ll have saved your bulbs to enjoy their cheerful beauty for years to come.

From State-by-State Gardening November/December 2011. Photography by Phyllis Gricus.


Posted: 12/19/12   RSS | Print


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