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.
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 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.
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.
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.