My Annual Post on How to Plant Bulbs in Containers

So on Monday my order from John Scheepers arrived. That was the good news. DSC_0389

The bad news is that I was very busy the rest of the day, and my back is still sore. However, all the bulbs are now planted except for about 60 Daffodils that will go into the Parkway Bed.


From Scheepers I ordered 200 Tulips, 250 Crocuses, and 25 Camassia.


To plant the Tulips, I empty out the planting mix into a big bucket, then check to make sure there were enough drainage holes. Wet planting mix will rot your bulbs over winter. I use a hammer and awl to make holes, though with cheap pots that can result in cracks.

Then I partially refill the container, leaving at least 6″ from the top (I like to plant deep and leave at least 8″). That done, I mix in a handful of compost to refresh the mix. Finally, place the bulbs, leaving an inch or so between them.


This year I planted some Containers with both Tulips and Crocuses. After placing the Tulips, I added 2-3 inches of potting mix, then threw a handful of crocus bulbs on top. I kind of rolled the Crocuses around until they looked about right.


Now, overwintering bulbs in containers can be tricky. I have used two approaches which have both worked fairly well. First, I’ve buried containers up to their tops and just left them until spring. Second, I’ve kept them in the garage (when their in the garage you shouldn’t let them get completely dry).

Last year I tried something different. I lined the containers up along the south side of the house and covered them with leaves for insulation. Results were not great for the Tulips, and I lost virtually all the Daffodil bulbs.


Problem is, I now have too many containers (12 with Daffodils, 16 with Tulips) to either bury or keep in the garage. An article in the most recent issue of Fine Gardening by Irvin Etienne, a horticulturalist with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, talks about burying pots above ground with mulch.

So who am I to argue with the Indianapolis Museum of Art? What you see above is 16 Tulip pots partially covered with 20 cubic feet of shredded cedar. It will probably take another 24 cubic feet to finish the job. The Daffodil pots I’ll mulch with compost, which I’ll use to top dress the lawn in the spring.

2014-05-17 11.37.10
Tulips by our front door, May 2014.

I suspect that the leaves I used last year tended to keep too much moisture in the potting mix, especially as they included lots of maple leaves.


Happy bulb planting! That’s all for now.



44 Comments on “My Annual Post on How to Plant Bulbs in Containers”

  1. Very nice! I always enjoy your posts about the bulb planting and the big reveal in the spring! I’ll be attempting to overwinter some cold-hardy perennials in pots this year. Thinking about placing them along the south-facing side of the house, where the reflection of the windows and the partial heat from the house might help them survive. Experiments are fun! Good luck!

  2. Too many bulbs! I got old montbretias that are soooooo invasive! I pulled out many that were where I did not want them last year, keeping only one clump about two feet wide. I really like them because they have been around so long, but I do not think that I would plant new ones. When I was young, I lived near abandoned flower fields that once provided the cut flowers that Diego Rivera painted. There was a field of daffodils that almost looked wild, but the big clumps were in distinct rows. There were also lily-of-the-Nile, callas and heather.

  3. That’s an interesting idea Jason. I will definitely try using mulch on some of my pots. I am currently thinking about planting my tulips in plastic pots inside terracotta pots. Then I can add some insulation in between as well as on top and there is less danger of my pots getting cracked by frost. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  4. Hmmmm, cover in mulch huh? What’s going to keep those incorrigible squirrels from digging right in to the mulch for a tasty tulip bulb breakfast? I am SO SO done with those with those little b******s! Your gorgeous front entry tulip display has really made me want to try this successfully. Last year’s attempt was a total bomb 😤

  5. I always get in trouble when ordering bulbs online. The buttons are so easy to push on the computer; the pounds of bulbs and hefty bill require more effort. However, I did pick up a few bulbs at a local nursery and better get them planted soon. Thanks for the reminder about drainage in pots. Spring is going to be a riot of color in your garden!

  6. Some interesting ideas. The last time I tried planting bulbs in containers I lost them all, but we get pretty cold here (sometimes 30 below or even colder). You are ahead of me on the bulb planting…it’s not one of my favorite garden chores, but it’s worth it every spring!

  7. Here, squirrels would dig in those pots,and mice would nest in the fluffy mulch. I’ve done something similar to overwinter perennial containers, but had to construct a cage of quarter-inch hardware cloth to exclude critters.

    • Well, I forgot to mention that I’m also using an animal repellent. I know that is somewhat hit or miss, but it is somewhat effective. I find that squirrels don’t like digging in wood mulch as much as leaves. As for mice, they are around, but I don’t mind them too much. I put hardware cloth around plants whose bark might get nibbled over winter. And once the pots freeze, they are varmint proof.

  8. Whoa – those are a LOT of bulbs! I love experiments – sometimes they don’t work out, as in your south-facing/leaf covering experience, but you’ll never know until you try. There is always something to be learned even if they don’t succeed.

  9. Oh the pots of tulips look so pretty! That’s a lot of containers of bulbs! I plan on doing a few small containers for forcing indoors when the weather is so bleak come February, but most of my bulbs go out in the garden (though I am running out of garden bed space!) I hope your plan works well – here I would have to cover them with burlap or something with all the mice!

  10. Bulbs make such an absolutely gorgeous display in pots. I keep thinking I will try this so all the tips are appreciated, esp. since I was thinking about using leaves. At this point most of my bulbs are all planted in the ground. But I have a few true broken Tulips that can’t be planted near other Tulips or Lilies. So I need to find a spot away from those bulbs or try a pot. Hmm.

  11. Thanks for sharing your results, Jason; I’ll be very curious how your pots do with the cedar mulch. I had mixed results last year with bulbs in pots – the thin plastic pots did the best – better drainage? The thicker insulated pots killed everything in them – yikes. This year, I’m planting the daffodils in the ground and letting go of the tulip dream.

  12. Pingback: Container Bulbs Report – gardeninacity

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