How to Grow: Bulbs in a Pot

Learn how to force spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, in a container to bloom in winter. Information includes layering bulbs in the container for maximum flower time, when to plant, caring for the container, what soil to use and how to overwinter the pot.


Fall is planting time for spring flowering bulbs. A lot of people love to plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and lots of other bulbs into the landscape but some people don’t have room to plant bulbs. The solution is to plant bulbs in a container. You can plant your bulbs and force them this winter or save them and actually have them bloom next spring in a pot. First you want to select a twelve to fourteen inch diameter plastic or clay pot. Make sure it’s at least eight inches deep to accommodate the largest bulbs. Then select bags of large, medium-sized, and small size bulbs to plant. These will be planted at different depths in the pot and may bloom at different times, depending on the variety. I like to start with daffodils for the biggest bulbs. I like to get the biggest bulbs possible. The bigger the bulb, the more flowers you’re gonna get from your daffodils. Before I put them in the pot I want to put a layer of potting soil in the bottom. It’s just a couple inch thick layer so when I put the daffodils in, flat side is down pointy side is up. I want to be able to sink them about eight inches into the pot this is a proper depth for these daffodils. Then once they’re in I wanted to add some more potting soil on top, just enough to cover them. So the soil level now is about four to six inches deep. Then I want to use my medium-sized bulbs. For those I’m going to use these tulips. Tulips are great because they’ll sit in here, about four to six inches deep. You can plant them pointy side up pretty close together. You can put a good five or six bulbs in the pot. Once those are in I want to just pop some more potting soil on top of them to cover those up a little bit better. Then I’m gonna put some small bulbs in. These could be crocuses, they could be snowdrops, it could be little alliums like these. Any small little bulb that you can plant about two to four inches deep. You just want to put a whole bunch of those in here. These are gonna be great because often these will be the earliest ones to bloom. The tulips and daffodils will come a little bit later to extend your flower show. Once you have enough of those in we’ll just put another layer of soil on top so that eventually you’ll only be a couple inches below the rim of your container. Now your pot is all planted.

Once you’re all done you want to water your container really well to moisten that soil. It also needs a cold dormancy period. It’s gonna need temperatures about 35 to 45F degrees for 12 to 14 weeks. That means if you plant this pot in October, you’re gonna have to wait till about February to actually pull them out and force them indoors to bloom.

The place to store them could be a cool basement, it could be a shed, or a garage. Anywhere where it stays within that temperature range that’ll be ideal for them. If you don’t have a basement or a garage to store them you can actually store them in the refrigerator. Use a smaller container with fewer bulbs, but cover it with plastic and place it in the back of the refrigerator for winter.

After flowering in spring let the foliage yellow and then plant them in the garden. They actually might flower for you again in coming years.

Go here for more on forcing bulbs.

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