Can You Plant Tulips in a Container Over the Winter?

Overview

The varied colors and bell-shaped blossoms of tulips make them a favorite spring flower. Tulip bulbs need the chill of winter to develop properly, so they are usually planted in fall for flowering in late spring and early summer. Masses of tulips in beds make any yard a showcase, but apartment dwellers or those without suitable planting spaces can enjoy tulips, too. Tulips look lovely planted in containers on a patio, deck or balcony.

Varieties

Choose smaller varieties of tulips for container gardening. Not only will large varieties look awkward in the pots when they bloom, the large bulbs may bulge up or "heave" out of the pot during cold weather. Dwarf varieties of tulip bulbs do well in containers. For the best display in spring, plant all one variety in each container, five to ten bulbs per container. You can plant bulbs very close together, with only an inch or so of soil between each bulb, and a inch between the bulb and the sides of the pot.

Containers

The containers for your tulips should be large enough to contain five to ten bulbs each, and at least 10 inches deep. The pots should have drain holes, since you'll need to water throughout the winter, and they should be light enough to move easily. Use a mixture of potting soil and compost, and add a layer of mulch on top of each pot to provide a little extra insulation from the cold.

Protection

Tulips need a period of cold weather to flower in the spring, but the bulbs shouldn't be allowed to freeze. The ground itself provides protection for the bulbs when they're planted in flower beds or yards, but bulbs in pots are less sheltered. To protect your bulbs, you should bring then into an unheated basement or garage where the temperature is unlikely to rise above 50 degrees or fall below freezing. Some people have even removed all the shelves from an old refrigerator and stored pots of tulips inside for the winter. If you don't have a suitable place to store the pots, you can fill trash bags with leaves or straw and set the tulips in these insulated bags. Water the bulbs once a week throughout the winter, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. When all danger of frost has passed, unwrap your pots of tulips or move those stored inside outdoors again.

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About this Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University. Before turning to freelancing full time, Myers worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.

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