Planting bulbs in pots

How to plant bulbs in pots

The oft-repeated mantra ‘right plant, right place’ applies as much to bulbs in pots as to those in a garden. Many plants thrive in containers and bulb planting in pots allows for a much more flexible display, a moveable feast for the eyes, that you can adjust and update throughout the year. In autumn, gardeners should be thinking about planting spring bulbs, and it’s worth taking the time to consider planting combinations, where you want the display to sit, plus the size and style of your pot.

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Below you’ll find the do’s and don’ts of container gardening and inspiring ideas for using bulbs in pots.

Do’s and Don’ts for bulb container gardening

Follow these ten top tips to ensure you get the best from your bulb containers

Photo: Andrew Montgomery

DO fill the bottom few inches of the container with crocs – broken terracotta pots work well – to help with drainage and reduce the amount of compost you need.

DO use a good compost. Loam-based composts, mixed with grit or crushed bark, formulated for container growing, are far better than multi-purpose composts.

DO feed your plants regularly during the summer months. Flowering plants should be fed once a week with a liquid fertiliser during their flowering period.

DO add water-retaining crystals to the compost. Soil in containers will dry out much more quickly than in the garden and the crystals will help store water. Using a mulch will also help retain moisture.

DO buy the best terracotta pots and containers you can afford. Cheap terracotta pots with flack or crack during hard frosts.

DON’T forget pests and diseases. Plants grown in containers are under more stress than those in the garden so are more susceptible to pests. Treat regularly for aphids, slugs and mildew.

DON’T skimp on the size of the pot or container. Most plants look much better in big groups in large pots.

DON’T forget that your pots and containers will be heavy, so plant them where you want them to end up or alternatively use specially-designed pot rollers.

DON’T overdo the number of plants you use. Although when you first plant up a container it may look skimpy the plants will soon grow and spread to fill out your pot.

DON’T forget that plants in pots and containers need a considerable amount more watering than those in the garden. During really hot days water at least once a day.

Inspiration for planting bulbs in pots

Here are three container displays that celebrate the beauty of bulbs. Some have been planted en mass to stunning affect, or grouped together to give a strong sense of the arrival of spring.

A bowl of Fritillaria

Photo: Andrew Montgomery

This display uses Fritillaria melegaris bulbs, delicate snake’s head fritillaries. By planting them in a bowl, they can be elevated to a prominent position and their stunning checkered bell-shaped blooms can be fully appreciated.

Fritillaria bulbs are very fragile and can often dry out in storage. To give your display every chance of success, soak them in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting. You can also buy them ‘in the green’ in spring. If you’re planting bulbs in autumn, plant them as soon as possible in early autumn in moist, humus-rich, loam-based compost at four times their own depth, ensuring that the pots have holes for drainage. Protect with plastic netting or chicken wire.

Using small pots helps to prevent disturbing their roots when eventually planting out and if grouped together on a window ledge or table in decorative containers they will still create the meadow look.

Use 30-50 bulbs. The display will be in flower from March until May.

Grouped hyacinths

Photo: Andrew Montgomery

The arrival of spring is always a time for gardeners to celebrate, but we can often overlook some of the smaller flowering bulbs, such as the lovely, classic grape hyacinths. This display combines Muscari aucheri ‘White Magic’, a very fragrant white cultivar, and Muscari armeniacum, which produces fragrant blue flowers from April to May and is followed by decorative seedheads. Also seen is Scilla siberica. Planting muscari in pots to bring indoors not only allows us to appreciate their beauty in greater detail, but it is also a great way to experiment with new bulbs in small numbers. The copper pots add a stylish edge to the display.

Pot the bulbs up in autumn, using a loam-based compost with extra sand for drainage and leaf mould for the squills as they appreciate humus-rich soil. Leave outside in a sheltered spot and bring into a polytunnel in January to encourage early flowering. You can transfer the plants into their final containers as they come into flower. Top dress them with garden gravel for a finished look.

Grape hyacinths require plenty of light but not direct sunlight and will benefit from a liquid seaweed feed after the display has finished. Leave the foliage to die down before planting out in lawns or borders.

Daffodils en mass

Photo: Andrew Montgomery

Using pots offers you the great convenience of setting down a smear of colour just when you need it. But when you’re using narcissi you can easily end up with an arrangement that has an unnatural look or one that is too yellow biased. Narcissi work best if you plant separate pots of just a few carefully selected kinds or, if the pot is impressive enough, a single star.

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This display uses Narcissus ‘Elka’. It’s a delicate daffodil with ivory-white petals and a pale-yellow trumpet that fades to china white. It also has a scent that is light and sweet. Narcissi bulbs need to be in the ground by September and if grown in pots need plenty of grit, roughly one part grit to three parts John Innes No 1. A pot 80cm in diameter can take up to 75 bulbs of mid-sized narcissus. With troughs, ensure the drainage hole is kept open by using crocks over it.

Planting spring bulbs in pots and containers

Plant pots and containers can brighten up even the smallest gardens – they add colour to your outdoor space and can enhance patios and windowsills.

Planting bulbs couldn’t be easier, and with a few hints and tips up your sleeve you can enjoy beautiful blooms.

The best bulbs for containers

What you plant in your pots and containers really is a matter of personal preference. Some gardeners opt for one or two blooms, while others layer bulbs in pots to enjoy a range of different colours blooming at different times throughout the spring.

Plants like crocus, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, iris and snowdrop are all very popular and will thrive in your containers with the right care. Don’t be afraid to try some more adventurous varieties; West Point tulips, Dancing Flames or Champagne Flutes add vibrant personality to a garden, while bulbs like bluebells help create a garden oasis.

When to plant

In general, the best time to plant your bulbs is in the autumn, though this may vary from bulb to bulb depending on its bloom date. Always check the back of the pack for details.

Bulbs planting depth & spacing

The depth and spacing of planted bulbs differs depending on the size of the bulb and whether it is a border bulb or a container bulb. In general, bulbs should be planted 2-3 times their diameter deep and 1-2 times their diameter apart. The below table provides a handy guide but when in doubt always consult the back of pack for details.

Planting tips:
Choose the right container
  • Choose a container that has drainage holes and has enough depth to accommodate several inches of soil. In general, you’ll need an inch of space between the tip of the bulb and the rim of the container.
  • The chosen container should ideally be frost resistant given that it will be outside over the winter months. To aid with protection from frost use crocks inside the pots to help with drainage, and also use pot feet as this ensures the container isn’t sat on a cold surface and therefore helps to reduce frost damage.
Get a good potting mix
  • Good blooms begin with good potting mix – something like Miracle-Gro Bulb Fibre Enriched Compost is ideal as it’s unique texture encourages fast root growth. Place some crocks in the container first for drainage, then add 3 inches of potting mix to the container and gently pack in. Use a trowel or bulb planter and dig a hole to place the bulb according to the recommended depth listed on the pack, twisting slightly to position it in the soil.
  • Space bulbs approximately two to three bulb widths apart. Finish by adding more potting mix – at the end the tips of the bulbs should barely be visible from the surface.
Water well
  • Water the containers until water begins to leak from the drainage holes, then water periodically after planting.
Plan for next year
  • After your blooms have faded, decide whether you’d like your blooms to grow again next year. The best approach would be to recover the bulbs and store them in a dry place out of direct sunlight. If you want to keep them in the pots, move the pots out of direct sunlight, cover and hide away in your garage or shed and give them a liquid feed. When the blooms fade you can also dig them up and plant them in your garden to bloom the following year as well.
Feeding

When you plant a bulb, it contains everything it needs to flower in the spring. However, once they have flowered they need a little helping hand to ensure you have great blooms for the next season. We therefore recommend feeding just as the flowers are starting to fade and until the foliage has died back. Use a dedicated plant feed such as Miracle-Gro All Purpose Soluble Plant Food or Miracle-Gro All Purpose Concentrated Liquid Plant Food.

The best time to use this is from early spring until six weeks after flowering.

All bulbs will need adequate watering while in growth, but also for six weeks after flowering. Check pots regularly to make sure they aren’t drying out during the growing period. You want soil to feel moist but not wet.

Indoor bulbs

If you don’t have much outdoor space or simply want to brighten your living room or kitchen, growing bulbs indoors is surprisingly simple to do. The simplest option is to choose an indoor bulb that’s native to a warmer climate; this means they won’t need a cooling period to trigger blooming. Amaryllis and narcissus are among two of the most popular choices and will typically flower within four weeks of planting.

Other common spring bulbs that you’d find in your garden will require chilling to thrive indoors. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and iris can all be used as indoor bulbs, but will need to be stored in cool temperatures before they are ready to start blooming. Once planted, bulbs will need to be kept in a cool place for 16 to 18 weeks – the simplest thing to do is plant your bulbs in late autumn then leave them in a sheltered garage or shed during the winter.

It’s hard to believe when summer comes to an end that it’s already time to start planting bulbs for spring bloom. All of our favorite bulbs – such as hyacinths, tulips, and of course, that symbol of spring itself, the daffodil – are now available in garden centers and nurseries.

I suppose the daffodil would have to be my favorite because of its simple beauty and reliable nature. You can just about always depend on it to return each spring. And while I can’t imaging my garden without those bright blooms, I know that once the flowers fade I need to leave the remaining foliage in place for almost six weeks so the bulb can be recharged to bloom again next year.


Though it’s not hard to disguise their long green leaves with other emerging plants, there is a way to enjoy the flowers without the problem of the remaining foliage. All you have to do is plant the bulbs in nursery pots and then bury them in the garden. Once the blooms fade, just lift the pots and set them aside.

This project is easy to do in a weekend. Start by finding an area where you’d like to enjoy a spring bulb garden. I’m always hungry for some early color in my vegetable garden, so my raised beds were ideal, but you may have an area near your front door or in an established flower bed. The best locations are well-drained soil with full sun, but even partial shade will do. Avoid wet, marshy spots.

Next, collect several plastic nursery pots. They don’t have to be the same size. I use containers that range from 6 to 8 inches in diameter and from 5 to 8 inches deep. Then pick out the daffodils you want to use. This may be the hardest part because there are so many choices.

While daffodils will grow in most areas of the country, some varieties perform better than others depending on the climate. With more than 13,000 hybrids to choose from, you’ll want to check with your local garden center or other gardeners to find the bulbs best suited for your area. You’ll find that daffodils have been developed to bloom in early, mid or late season, so you can extend the length of the display by choosing from each category.

Prepare the area by loosening the soil with a shovel. Then put about an inch of loose garden soil in the bottom of the containers, and place the bulbs shoulder to shoulder, pointed tip up. Add another inch of soil, and slip in a few more bulbs. Layering bulbs in each container gives you a bouquet. Fill the containers to the top with more soil. If you like, add a tag identifying the varieties. Next spring, you can note which ones performed the best.

Once all the pots are filled, water well. Then dig a hole in the bed, deep enough so the pot’s lip sits about an inch below the surface of the soil. Place the containers in the ground and fill in more soil around them. Lightly tamp down the area.

In my mid-South garden, winters are relatively mild, so I like to over-plant my bulb beds with violas and pansies. These plants thrive in low light and cool temperatures and provide a spot of color through the cold months. Or, you can add these plants after the daffodils begin to emerge in spring. Both violas and pansies can survive a frost and rebound in bright color.

Now sit back and dream of the beautiful display you’ll enjoy next spring. An added bonus of this potted-bulb method is that once the flowers are up, you can lift a container from the bed and bring it inside to enjoy. Simply slip the plastic container into a more decorative pot, add a few more pansies, and cover the top in sheet moss. It’s a quick and easy way to enjoy your flowers a second time as a spring centerpiece.

My Daffodil Picks:
For potting success, try these varied cultivars. Just make sure that you plant your bulbs before the ground freezes in the North, and after it cools down from summer in the South. Check a zone map to see which of these daffodils is best suited for your garden.

‘Topolino’ – white petals with a creamy yellow trumpet; it is dwarf in size and resembles the little trumpet naturalized throughout the Southeast; great for rock gardens, forced in pots, and in patio containers; 8 to 10 inches tall; early to midseason; zones 4 – 8.

‘Jenny’ – a small charmer that opens white and yellow but matures to a clear white; 10 to 12 inches tall; midseason; zones 3 – 8

‘Pipit’ – two to three luminous yellow flowers per stem, but the cup quickly turns white; superb garden perennial and show winner; American bred; 14 to 16 inches tall; midseason; zones 4 – 9.

‘Lemon Drop’ – two to three large, teardrop-shaped flowers per stem standing with reverence in the garden as it bows its two-toned head; American bred; 12 to 14 inches tall; midseason; zones 4 – 9.

‘Jack Snipe’ – cyclamineus miniature with a white perianth and yellow trumpet, great for rock gardens; 12 inches tall; early; zones 3 – 8.

‘Quail’ – long-lasting floriferous American-bred selection with deep bronze-yellow, multiple flowers; 12 to 13 inches tall; midseason; zones 5 – 9.

Planting Bulbs In Pots – Learn How To Plant Bulbs In Containers

Growing bulbs in pots is one of the smartest and easiest things you can do in your garden, and it has a huge payoff. Planting bulbs in containers means you know exactly where they are, you can move them wherever they need to go to chill, and you can place them on your patio, steps, porch, or wherever they’re going to cause the biggest sensation in spring. Then, if you want to save the bulbs, you can move them out of sight to allow the foliage to fade. Keep reading to get some container bulb planting tips.

Can You Plant Bulbs In Containers?

Yes, you can! Autumn is the time to plant bulbs, and planting bulbs in containers is no exception. When picking out your container, you can go as wide as you want, but you want it to be deep enough to accommodate 2-3 inches of soil in the bottom, plus the height of your bulbs, plus an inch of space below the rim.

Place your bulbs so there’s no more than ½ an inch between any of them and just cover them with potting mix. You can leave the very tops exposed. Next, your bulbs need to be chilled. The beauty of planting bulbs in containers is that this can be done anywhere, depending upon your climate and convenience.

If you live in an area that experiences cool but mild winters (between 35 and 40 F. or 1 to 4 C.), you can leave your containers outdoors until spring, as long as they’re not made of ceramics or thin plastic, which can crack in the cold.

If your winters are colder than that, you can leave them in an unheated but relatively warmer place, like a garage or porch. If your winters are warm, you’ll have to put them in the fridge. Don’t store them next to fruits or vegetables, though, or they might fail.

Growing Bulbs in Pots

Keep your pot moist through the winter – this is the time the bulbs are growing their roots. After 2-4 months, shoots should begin to appear.

Growing bulbs in pots that mature at different points in the season (using the Lasagna method) will make for continuous and impressive blooming. Most any bulb will work well in a pot. That said, here are some common bulbs that grow well in containers:

  • Daffodils
  • Crocus
  • Amaryllis
  • Hyacinth
  • Muscari
  • Snowdrops
  • Tulips
  • Dahlias

After all the blooms have passed, move your container out of the way to allow the foliage to die back. Once it does, remove the bulbs from the soil and store them for planting again in autumn.

Top Ten Tips on How to Plant your Spring Bulbs in Pots

We have some simple tips for the best success when planting your spring bulbs in pots*:

Start with the Right Tools

  • Choose the right bulb for the right pot; the general tenet here is, the bigger the bulb the bigger the pot! This is logical when you think about it, if you use little bulbs like Crocus in a large pot, their impact will be lost. Using big bulbs in small pots not only look out of whack, the bulbs may topple over.
  • Pick a container with good drainage. Most bulbs will rot if they become waterlogged so good drainage is a must. If your container has no holes in the base it is a good idea to make some.

  • Plant your bulbs using a good quality potting mix. This will help to ensure good drainage; it also contains a few nice nutrients that will give your bulbs the best start.

TIP: Plant your bulbs so they are almost cheek to cheek, for a full and dramatic display.

Planting

  • How deep do you plant your spring bulbs? Each variety is a little bit different. The golden rule when planting spring bulbs in the ground is that the bulb should be planted two to three times the height of the bulb deep. When you are planting in pots, this doesn’t need to be the case, you have a little more freedom. You should aim to bury the bulb at least 2cm deep, this will help to provide support for the foliage and the flower stem. There are always exceptions to the rule, for example, bulbs such as Hyacinths with their sturdy foliage can even grow half in, half out of the soil.

TIP: Tulip bulbs have a flat side, when planting in pots, aim to have that flat side facing outward, this is where the first leaf will sprout from and that will help to soften the edge of your pot.

  • Add your potting mix in stages. Pour some potting mix into your container, then place the bulbs, pointy end up, at their appropriate level before filling the remainder of the pot with the mix. If you are using plastic containers, make sure your bulbs don’t touch the edge of the pot as this area can get very hot and damage the roots. In clay or ceramic pots they are a bit more protected so can be planted right to the edge. Fill the soil level to 2-3 cm below the lip of the pot to allow space for watering.

TIP: If you are layering your bulbs, put the tallest, and latest flowering varieties towards the bottom of the pot. Add some more potting mix, ensuring you have covered the first layer of spring bulbs. If your pot is deep enough, you can add a third or fourth layer by repeating the above process.

  • Water them in, with a good, slow pour of water to really wet the soil, do this until the water is running out the bottom of the container. Once the bulb starts to actively grow you then need to keep the water up to them. The most common reason bulbs don’t perform in pots is that they have dried out during their growth process. Remember, pots dry out at a much faster rate than garden soil and so need to be watered on a more regular basis.

TIP: Add some annuals at the time of planting for extra colour and to hide the soil before the bulbs begin to grow.

Add a Little Love

  • Put your pots in the shade to keep them cool and out of the way, until they begin to grow. Once they begin to grow, bring them into the sun. They need the light to create strong plants. If you grow your bulbs in too much shade they become lanky and unattractive.
  • Add some fertiliser, once your bulbs begin to grow. Be it organic, man made, liquid or slow release; by adding fertiliser you will improve the longevity of your flowers and get the best possible show.
  • Enjoy the show!

  • Add some fertiliser once the flowers begin to fade, and keep your pot watered until the foliage begins to yellow. The bulbs are about to rest for the next season.

* We recommend that bulbs such as Tulips and Hyacinths should only be planted for one year in pots. So once the flowers have finished, you have a couple of choices:

  • After they have been grown in a pot, you can plant the bulbs into the garden to help replenish them. Do this the following autumn (in the pot you will need to add a some fertiliser and keep watering your spring bulbs until the foliage has yellowed, then you can either dig them out and store them somewhere cool and dry, or store them in the pot until it is time for replanting).
  • You can treat them as annuals, throw them on the compost and get some new ones next year. It might sound a bit frivolous, but spring bulbs are inexpensive and with new ones every year you are guaranteed a great show, and can choose from so many different varieties and combinations.

Among spring’s greatest visual joys is a fat container sporting thick green spears of emerging tulips, daffodils, and other flowers. And when the flowers emerge tightly circled, like beautiful eyes following wherever you go, there’s little that can compare. The time to make sure your spring will be full of beautiful flowers from bulbs is now, in the fall, to give them a chance to establish roots and to chill-out over the winter, just like most gardeners do.

Don’t get us wrong. We love spring blossoms from bulbs as they poke out from the thawing ground, sometimes even through the snow, in our borders and gardens. And there’s little that’s as impressive as a huge plot of daffodils, their bright petals announcing sunny days, turning through the day as they follow the light. But bulbs in a container are a great way to add spot-specific color and interest. They’re especially useful to the small gardener, even apartment dwellers with verandas, in that they provide a space for growing color where none may have existed. Best of all? Growing them is easy.

Get your container grown gardens off to a great start and keep them productive with our quality organic potting soils. Need advice? Our Soils Blog provides the ideas, information and practical experience you need to get the job done right.

Almost any spring-flowering bulb will do for container planting. And as you plan your bulb containers, consider planting major flowering bulbs like tulips, gladiolus, and daffodils with smaller flowers like crocus, snowdrops, windflower, or grape hyacinth (though the latter tends to spread and take over pots). Combinations of bulbs will give you both staggered blooms and a layered, understory appearance.

Drainage is particularly important to flowering bulbs. Make sure any pot you use has drainage holes at the bottom and, if they’re deep enough cover the bottom of the pot with broken pottery shards or stones before adding soil. Don’t use garden soil. A rich mix of home-made potting soil (scroll down) with plenty of compost and woodchips or sand to aid water conduction or an organic potting soil from your favorite supplier is ideal. Soil that doesn’t drain well and remains soggy encourages bulb rot. No one wants that.

Choose pots that give enough depth for proper bulb planting. A general rule is to have three inches of soil beneath your bulbs. How much soil to have over your bulbs depends on the plant (most bulbs come with planting instructions). If you’re layering different types of bulbs, put the larger bulbs on the bottom and the smaller ones near the top. Always leave an inch of the pot’s rim visible above the soil to help with watering.

Don’t be afraid to crowd bulb in the soil. A pot that is 20 inches in diameter will easily hold 30 tulip bulbs. Another grower claims that a 24-inch container can hold 50 tulips, 30 large-flowered daffodils, 50 small-flowered daffodils, or 100 minor bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, Scilla, or Iris species or cultivars. Experimentation will tell you what works best for your conditions.

Gently screw the bulbs root side down (duh!) in to the bottom three inches of soil to help them stay in position. To get the emerging leaves to grow up and out, position the flat side of bulbs so they face the wall of the pot. Or point them in the other direction and plant them in the middle with a circle of lesser bulbs planted towards the outside. The bigger blossoms will crowd the center, framed by the smaller blossoms.

Bulbs need to overwinter in ground that doesn’t freeze hard. During this chill period, bulbs begin to grow roots. This suggests you’ll want to put them in the biggest pots possible and mulch them as deeply as the rim of your pot allows, especially in the colder zones. Some gardeners bring their pots inside the garage or basement to overwinter, but this can be a difficult task if pots are large and heavy. You’ll need to decide which method is most appropriate to your winter conditions and physical capabilities.

Because bulbs aren’t truly dormant during the winter, you’ll need to make sure the soil in your pots doesn’t dry out completely. If conditions warrant, pull back the mulch and give them a drink during dry periods. If you’ve taken your pots inside, get them out early ahead of the last frost so the bulbs can react to the changing conditions. There’s no more promising sight than when the first shoots appear. Don’t be afraid to add a touch of organic fertilizer before the blossoms show. Once they do, keep the soil moist — but not soggy — to encourage the flowers to stick around.

After blooming, the plants leaves will begin to yellow and die back. Keep watering even as this happens, stopping only when the leaves appear to be entirely gone (some gardeners plant lettuce or radishes in the pot during this time to take full advantage of the space and soil). This is the time, usually about the middle of summer, when it’s time to dig up your bulbs and place them on newspaper in the garage or basement to dry. When the soil that clings to your bulbs is crumbly dry, clean the bulbs and remove any dead growth. Store them covered in a cool dry place until fall arrives and they’re ready to plant again.

More suggestions and further wisdom about growing flowering bulbs can be found here and here.

10 of the best bulbs for pots

Just couple of hours spent planting bulbs in pots in autumn will ensure an abundance of colourful blooms the following spring.

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You can pot up different bulbs in different pots, which means you can rotate the display, bringing those at their peak to the fore. Alternatively, layer bulbs in pots for maximum impact and a continuous succession of flowers – watch our video guide to layering bulbs in pots.

We asked Kevin Smith, deputy editor of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, to recommend 10 of his favourite spring bulbs.

Layer bulbs in pots for maximum impact and a continuous succession of flowers. 1

Crocus tommasianus ‘Barr’s Purple’

Kevin grew the Crocus tommasianus ‘Barr’s Purple’ in this very picture – growing them in small pots shows them off perfectly.

Crocus tommasianus ‘Barr’s Purple’ flowering in small pots 2

Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’

Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ is a cultivar of Narcissus bulbocodium, often referred to as the hoop petticoat daffodil. It reaches just 20cm, making it perfect for pots.

A delicate hoop petticoat daffodil – Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ 3

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is one of the most popular daffodils for containers – it’s small but perfectly formed, with small yellow trumpets. If you didn’t get around to planting bulbs in autumn, plants are widely available in garden centres in spring.

A display of Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ 4

Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Woodstock’

‘Woodstock’ is one of the most beautiful hyacinths you can grow, with unusual, rich-purple blooms. It works beautifully in pots but also looks good in a spring border.

Rich purple blooms of hyacinth ‘Woodstock’ 5

Tulipa ‘West Point’

Kevin recommended Tulip ‘West Point’ to magazine readers in 2015 and grew them himself, too. ‘They worked really well and made a big impact,’ he says. They also make an unusual addition to a border.

Tulip ‘West Point’ with its sharply pointed yellow petals 6

Galanthus nivalis

Snowdrops are among the earliest bulbs to flower in late winter. Kevin usually buys them in bud at the garden centre in late winter and pots them up for an instant display.

A swathe of snowdrops Galanthus nivalis 7

Muscari armeniacum

Grape hyacinths, including Kevin’s favourite variety Muscari armeniacum, have brilliant blue flowers in spring and are a doddle to grow. They are very popular with pollinators, too.

Bright-blue blooms of grape hyacinth Muscari armeniacum 8

Iris reticulata ‘Edward’

Another of Kevin’s tried-and-tested favourites, Iris reticulata ‘Edward’, brings welcome colour in late winter and early spring. Growing in pots means you can appreciate the deep violet flowers, splashed with yellow.

Deep-violet and gold-splashed flowers of Iris reticulata ‘Edward’ 9

Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva’

If you don’t want to venture into the garden in the depths of winter, you can enjoy forced blooms indoors. Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva’ is one of the best you can grow, with white blooms and heavenly scent. Discover nine spring bulbs to force in autumn.

Advertisement White blooms of Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva’ 10

Tulipa humilis

Species tulips may be small, but they pack a punch. Tulipa humilis looks stunning in pots, where the delicate blooms can be appreciated, but they are also excellent for borders and naturalising in grass – they will come back year after year.

Delicate small blooms of Tulipa humilis, with streaky-pink, pointed petals

Encourage next year’s blooms

After the blooms have faded, move the pots out of sight, and give the bulbs a liquid feed. Allow the foliage to die back naturally. Alternatively, plant in the garden for blooms next year.

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