Spring - flowering bulbs are a great choice for
gardening in pots and other containers. With a minimum of effort and attention,
you can rely on flower bulbs to provide a splash of colour and fragrance. And by
selecting flower bulbs with different flowering times and planting them in
layers within a container or by combining bulbs with other plants, you can enjoy
containers full of flowers for a longer period of time - more on this later.
The advantages of growing flower bulbs in containers are numerous. Use them to
create miniature gardens anywhere. You are no longer restricted to garden beds.
This is great news for unit or flat dwellers, for home gardeners with
established or small gardens that simply don't have garden bed space in a sunny
position, and for more mature gardeners who love gardening but are less able to
dig. Add a splash of colour with clusters of various sized containers to
entrance ways, verandahs, balconies, patios, around the pool or barbeque and in
front of or on top of a bare wall. Also, unusual or small bulbs are less easily
lost if kept in labelled containers.
Small to medium size containers can be easily moved about. As the first flower
buds appear move them to a focal point around your home such as an outdoor
entertaining area, window ledge or even indoors as a living bouquet. Watch with
fascination as tulips stretch for a light above a kitchen bench, or fill a room
with the sweet fragrance of hyacinths.
Once flowering is complete, the containers can be moved to a less obvious
position outside, while the leaves yellow and slowly die down. If you would like
to re-use the container straight away, carefully remove the contents of the
container as a whole, complete with the potting medium, and sink into a hole in
the garden to complete the growing cycle.
Today, the range of containers, available in a variety of materials, shapes and
sizes, makes for incredibly versatile mini-gardening. Besides squat pots and
bowls, in which flowering bulbs look particularly attractive, try window boxes,
short wooden barrels, concrete tubs, troughs, and various old wares. Make sure
the containers selected are at least 10 to 12cm deep to allow for adequate root
growth. Proper drainage is all important when planting bulbs in containers, so
make sure that there are ample drainage holes in the bottom of the container
selected - you can always make a few more holes, at least 1cm in diameter, just
to be sure.
Most spring bulb varieties will grow in containers made from any material.
However, it is beneficial to grow varieties.
Like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus, that prefer a cool root zone, in
terracotta containers rather than those made from plastic. Terracotta containers
lose moisture by evaporation through their walls, keeping them and their
contents cooler. Plastic containers tend to warm up when placed in the direct
sun, especially those of darker colour. This tendency can be reduced by placing
any plastic containers behind or in the shadow of other containers. Remember
plastic containers will generally require less watering than terracotta, as they
do not lose moisture through their walls.
Planting distance and depth
When planted in shallow containers like squat pots or bowls, larger bulbs like
tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and jonquils should be planted just below the
surface or with the nose of the bulb just showing. They should also be planted
closer together, than outside in the garden (only 2-3cm apart). Take care that
the bulbs do not touch each other or the container. In very large, deep tubs
these larger bulbs
can be planted at their normal depth. Smaller bulbs can be planted at the same
depth as in the garden, but closer together.
Planting In Layers
When deeper pots are used, more bulbs can be squeezed in by planting several
layers of the same or different varieties, creating a pot FULL of colour. For
example, in a 25cm standard pot, 12-15 daffodil bulbs can be planted as a single
layer, but up to 20-25 bulbs can be planted if they are placed in two layers.
Take care not to plant bulbs directly over each other. To extend the period of
flowering colour, try planting several different bulb varieties in layers, in
the same large pot. For example:
"A Potted Rainbow"
Layer A.Bright red tulips e.g. Apeldoorn, Kingsblood.
Three Layers of bulbs can be planted in large pots & tubs.
Layer B.Yellow daffodils e.g. Tete a tete, Welcome
Layer C.Dark blue dutch iris (only towards the centre of the pot) e.g. Prof
Blaauw, Blue Magic, Purple Sensation.
"Soft Tones In A Pot"
Layer A.Pink tulips e.g. Judith Leyster, Menton, Dreamland, Pink Impression.
Layer B.Blue hyacinths e.g. Atlantic, Sky Jacket, Delft Blue.
Layer C.Double white daffodils e.g. Erlicheer, White Lion or pink cup daffodils
e.g. ShirleyAnne, Mabel Taylor.
A window box or balcony container
"A Fragrant Window Box"
Layer A.Pink hyacinths e.g. Fondant, Anna Marie.
Layer B.Miniature jonquils e.g. Minnow & a double row of pale blue Spring Stars
or an annual seedling along the front edge.
"A Balcony of Colour"
Layer A.Rockery tulips
Layer B.Miniature daffodils e.g. Jetfire, Golden Bounty, Tete a tete & a double
row of white Starbrights or an annual seedling along the front edge.
Adding Colour with Annuals
Annual seedlings such as alyssum, lobelia, primulas and various small or large
flowering violas are ideal for combining with bulbs in containers. They help
cover the bare surface of the potting medium and extend the time of flowering
colour. The annuals will begin to flower before the bulbs and will continue
after the bulbs have finished, assisting to distract attention away from the
ageing bulb foliage. Annuals can also help support the stems of bulb varieties
with finer stems such as the Old Fashion Freesia, "Refracta Alba".
Dwarf virginian stock seed can be sown directly onto the surface of the potting
medium and simply watered in. A mass of delicate blooms in a mixture of pink,
lilac and white shades will appear within 6 to 10 weeks. Create a stunning
display by planting dwarf virginian stock as an underplanting for black,
burgundy, yellow or white tulips.
Potting Mediums & Fertilisers
The choice of potting medium is important when growing bulbs in containers
successfully, as waterlogging around the roots is the greatest enemy of
container growing. Choose a good quality general potting medium or a specialised
mix such as Debco's Bulb Potting Mix. Most good quality mixes have the added
advantage of already containing the nutrients necessary for initial bulb growth.
A top dressing when the first buds appear, with a complete garden fertiliser
based on blood and bone, 3-4 month slow release fertiliser, or Phostrogen will
ensure the continued growth and development of the bulbs in preparation for the
following year. Make sure the fertiliser used is not too high in nitrogen
levels, but has good levels of potash or potassium.
Once the bulbs are planted give the container a thorough watering, ensuring the
water penetrates the entire potting medium.
To achieve the best results with tulips, hyacinths, crocus, and daffodils, place
the container, after planting and watering, into a cool, dark position e.g.
under the house, the back of a cool shed, or a shady, cool corner of the garden.
This is especially advisable when these varieties are planted close to the
surface in shallow containers. Leave the container in a cool, dark position
until the growing shoots are about 5cm high, checking the need for water
periodically. Now place the container into the semi-shade and then after two
weeks into the full sun. Once the container is removed from the dark, annuals
can be planted between the shooting bulbs.
Pots containing any other bulb varieties can be placed straight into the full
sun or semi-shade, according to the bulb's requirements.
Once flowering is finished move the pot to a less obvious position, but maintain
watering until the leaves yellow and collapse. If you would like to re-use the
container straight away, carefully remove the contents of the container as a
whole, complete with potting medium, and sink into a hole in the garden to
complete the growing cycle.
Larger bulbs like daffodils and heavy feeding bulbs like hyacinths are best
removed from the container once the leaves have died down and replanted into the
garden the next Autumn to rejuvenate the bulbs for at least two seasons.
AUTUMN FLOWERING BULBS FOR POTS
Autumn Raindrops (Zephyranthes)
Golden Autumn Crocus (Sternbergia)
Lilac Queen (Colchicum)
Miniature Chilean Lily (Rhodophiala)
Storm Lily (Habranthus)
SPRING-FLOWERING BULBS FOR POTS
Bluebells, pinkbells, whitebells
Daffodils - Bridal Crown, Red Moreby, Abba, Welcome Double Fortune, Sydney Gold,
Butterfly var. Erlicheer, Pheasants Eyes, Margaret Mitchell Yellow,
Cheerfulness, Sir Winston Churchill, Cloth of Gold, Van Sion, White Lion, Ice
Follies, Shirley Anne, Russ Holland, Dick Wilden
Miniature Daffodils - Tete a tete, Golden Bounty, Jetfire Hoop Petticoats
Freesias - Fancy Frills (Doubles) Fragrant Massing, Old Fashion Freesia Named
choice var. Havanna Lily (Scilla peruviana)
Hyacinths - Fondant, Coloseum, Atlantic, Sky Jacket Anne Marie, Delft's Blue,
Ostara, L'Innocence Arentine Arensden, Pink Surprise
Jonquils -Paperwhites, Silver Chimes, Geranium, Soliel D'or, etc
Miniature Jonquils - Minnow