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How to Plant Bulbs in a Pot

Planting bulbs in pots is a unique way to add early spring color to your yard, garden, porch, patio or deck. It’s adds a color spot to an area, where plants may not ordinarily grow well or if you have poor soil. When you plant bulbs in pots, you protect them from squirrels and moles. Some bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils need a cold period before they can bloom in the spring. Therefore, bulbs should be planted in pots at the same time they would be planted in the ground, in fall.

Choose a pot that matches the exterior décor of your home and garden, a whimsical container for a country décor or a wood container for a rustic look. However, clay pots seem to blend with any type of décor. The container size will dictate the number of bulbs to use. A 6-inch pot will hold only four tulip bulbs, but six to eight daffodil bulbs, as they are smaller. A 25-inch pot can accommodate as many as 25 tulip bulbs and 30 or more daffodil bulbs.

Place stones or broken pottery over the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. Bulbs need good drainage and this will ensure that excess water moves freely out of the container.

Mix a slow-release bulb fertilizer into commercial potting soil. Pour the soil over the stones, filling the pot to a height of 3 times the height of the bulbs. Use your hand to gently pack the soil down, adding more if needed to reach the proper measurement.

Place your bulbs in the container, pointed side up and root (or eye) side down. Plant the bulbs shoulder to shoulder, to get a full, showy effect. However, there should be a layer of soil between the bulbs and the sides of the pot. This is different than ground planting, where there is a separation between the bulbs.

Cover the bulbs with soil, to ¼ inch from the top of the container. Pat the soil down, gently on top, for structure. The soil will recede a bit when watering packs it down in the spring.

Place your potted bulbs in a cold location, yet out of harms way. The garage, basement or potting shed are ideal. The bulbs need a chilling period of temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of at least 6 to 8 weeks (over the winter months).

Water your potted bulbs, in the early spring, when you bring them outdoors. Place them in a sunny location. The soil needs to remain moist, but not soggy. Soil tends to dry more quickly in containers, especially clay pots, than in the ground.


If you live in a warm climate location, where you would not receive a chilling period, place the bulbs in your refrigerator over winter.

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