Planting Container Tulips
Today I planted my new tulip bulbs in containers. This is my second year doing this. I started growing hybrid tulips in containers because I found that they did not mix well in perennial borders. In borders I prefer smaller bulbs – including species tulips, grape hyacinths, etc.
Anyhow, I had ordered 110 hybrid tulips from John Scheeper’s, seven different varieties chosen by Judy. Here’s how I planted them.
After pulling out this year’s plants, I refreshed the remaining potting mix with a few handfuls of compost. (One of the horticulturists at the Chicago Botanic Garden recommended this approach.)
I poured some of the mix into a bucket. The mix left in the container should be at the level where you want to plant the tulips. This should be deep enough so that the tips of the tulip bulbs are at least 6″ below the surface. Deeper is better, because it discourages squirrels and also provides more protection against freezing.
Along with the compost, you can also add some bone meal or bulb food in with the mix. I’ve done both, and haven’t found that it makes a big difference, though I’m sure others would disagree.
In terms of which tulip varieties go with which, we like to mix different bloom times and heights in the same container.
Larger containers are better. The ones I used had an inside diameter of 13″. The bulbs can be packed in much tighter than you would in the ground, about 1″ apart. I put about twelve bulbs in each container. Once the bulbs were planted, you can fill the rest of the container with the refreshed mix.
Last year I kept the containers in our unheated garage. Tulips cannot survive being frozen, but most of the tulips made it through the winter. The ones in the smaller containers, with a 10″ inside diameter, were the most likely to not survive. A space that stays about 40-50 degrees farenheit would have been better than an unheated garage, but I don’t have such a space.
This year I tried something different: planting the containers in the fallow ground of our vegetable bed. Bulbs in the ground will normally not freeze because they are insulated by the soil. These container tulips will have that same advantage, and I will dig the containers out of the ground in the spring. Once the containers were in the ground, I gave them a soaking.
Now I can start looking forward to tulips in the spring! Although first I have to get all the bulbs planted.
Have you planted tulip bulbs this fall? Have you ever tried planting tulips in containers?