How to Plant Bulbs in Pots in Northern States


Planting bulbs in pots is a great way to enjoy flowers such as tulips, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths or irises. In northern states, where the climate regularly drops below zero, bulbs generally need a cold period. However, some northern states are a bit too cold. This calls for planting your bulbs deeper in the ground, digging them up and storing them in the fall, covering the area with mulch or planting them in containers. The container bulbs can be stored during winter in a garden shed, garage or other location where they will not freeze. If there is an unexpected frost coming in spring, you can easily bring your bulbs indoors until the freezing period passes.

Step 1

Choose a pot that has good drainage. The water needs to flow through the soil and out, so no puddles remain at the bottom of the pot, sopping up bulb roots. Clay pots match every exterior home décor, but remember that they are porous and therefore dry out faster than plastic or sealed containers. If your climate is moist, this should not be a problem. An 8-inch pot is a good depth size.

Step 2

Plant bulbs with a commercial potting soil amended for good drainage and free of disease and weed seed.

Step 3

Fill your container with soil, leaving enough space for three times the height of the bulb you will be planting.

Step 4

Place bulbs point side up. The number of bulbs in each container will vary, depending on the size of the bulb. Tulip bulbs are larger than crocus bulbs, for example. You can plant the bulbs closer together than you would in the ground. Plant them nearly shoulder to shoulder, leaving a bit of soil between them and around the inside of the pot.

Step 5

Pour potting soil around bulbs and up to 1/2 inch from the top of the pot. If the package states the bulbs have been through a pre-chilling period, you may place your pot outdoors afer the last frost in your location, usually in spring. However, if not stated on the package, you will need to plant in the fall or winter and then store your bulbs to receive the chilling period they need.

Step 6

Water potted bulbs when you bring them outdoors in the spring. Check weekly to see if they need to be watered again as soil begins to dry.

Step 7

Leave stems and leaves after the bulb is done blooming. These spent parts of the plant are still offering nutrients to the bulb for next year's bloom. Let the soil dry out, as no more water is required. If the pot is unsightly in your garden, deck or patio, move it to a less visible location.

Step 8

Cut off stems and leaves at soil top level when they become yellow-brown. Store the entire pot in a dry, cool location that won't freeze. When you take out pots the following spring, add some bulb fertilizer (according to the fertilizer manufacturer) at the time of the first watering.

Things You'll Need

  • Plant container
  • Potting soil
  • Bulbs
  • Bulb fertilizer


  • Northerland Bulbs: Cold Climate Bulbs
  • Pacific Bulb Society: How to Grow Bulbs
Keywords: bulbs northern states, bulb storage, container bulbs