Not just for garden beds, bulbs look amazing in pots, shallow dishes, ornamental buckets and barrels. Because bulbs contain all the nutrients they need to germinate, simply give them a good-quality potting mix, sunshine and a little extra fertiliser, and you’ll find they’ll flourish, producing a stunning floral display in any container.
While you can choose any sort of container you like – rustic or modern – just make sure it has adequate drainage. If it doesn’t, drill several holes in the base to allow water to move through.
Pots do require more frequent watering than bulbs grown in beds, especially if the container is quite shallow. Aim to keep the mix just damp, which may mean watering once a week through winter, then increasing to two to three times a week when spring arrives and the plants start to form flower buds.
At this stage, also feed them with a soluble fertiliser such as Yates Thrive Flower & Fruit. You can treat potted bulbs like a bunch of flowers – enjoy them while they are in bloom, then hide them away when they are past it. Potted bulbs should be dug up when dormant and stored in a paper bag in a dry place until next autumn.
Bulbs in the landscape
Look around the garden and imagine all those bare patches filled with colour. It’s easy to achieve and inexpensive with bulbs. The ideal way to fill any gaps due to sheer value for money, a whole packet of bulbs costs about the same as a single potted plant. Being so small, they’re also easy to plant among established shrubs and flowers.
A time to flower
Spring bulbs flower at different times throughout the season. Whether you want to plant them in pots or the garden, be sure to select bulbs that will extend your flowering season and make the most of spring. To give you a head start, here are a few suggestions for each stage of spring:
• Early-flowering bulbs include crocus, muscari, hyacinth, Narcissus sp. (daffodils and jonquils), spring starflower and snowflakes.
• Mid-spring flowering bulbs include tulips, freesias, Dutch iris, sparaxis and babiana.
• Late- flowering bulbs include English bluebells, allium, chincherinchee, Queen Fabiola and bearded iris.
There are even special bulb-planting tools designed specifically for the purpose of planting this way. If your garden already has a strong colour scheme, make sure you stick to it when choosing your bulbs. A good approach is to select different shades of the same colour so you create a pleasantly themed effect. Also, be sure to choose a variety of flower heights, so the flowering effect is layered, adding extra interest.
For the most impact with bulbs, plant them en masse to create a whole swathe of colour. While a small clump of flowers can become lost in the garden, a group of flowering bulbs standing together makes a dramatic impact on the landscape. Use them as temporary decorations in the landscape, giving your garden a lift and bringing something very special to your home for a few glorious months.
• Order your spring bulbs now – this will give you time to create a false winter for cold-loving tulips and hyacinths by placing them in the fridge for six weeks prior to planting (egg cartons make handy containers).
• Plant spring bulbs from autumn to early winter, at the depth recommended on the packaging. (If in doubt, plant at a depth that is equal to twice the width of the bulb.) Place the pointy end upward and the roots down. Although note that the exceptions to this rule are ranunculus and anemone, which are actually ‘corms’ – they are planted with the flat surface uppermost.
• Position bulbs in spots that receive plenty of sunshine, though most are happy with a little filtered shade for part of the day.
• Water sparingly until bulbs become active in spring. When they are in full foliage and flower, water regularly – especially in hot weather.