How to Plant Bulbs in Containers

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Why Plant Bulbs in Pots?

Planting bulbs in pots is very similar to planting them in your garden beds, except for three (very appealing!) differences. First, you can move your pots around and use different sizes to add more dimension to your overall landscape. Second, you can design your pots of bulbs like you would create a typical container garden, and it’s tons of fun to watch it come to life. Lastly, planting bulbs in pots is very easy—especially for those of us who have a hard time bending at the hip or knee.


Planting for Spring Color

If you’re reading this in the late Winter or Spring, it may be too late to chill Spring flowering bulbs this close to Spring. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few pots filled with bulbs this year.  Many good garden centers have pots of Spring-flowering bulbs already pre-cooled, rooted, and ready for your sunny windowsill or ‘Florida room’. If you’re in the Gloucester, VA area, you can find many different types of pre-chilled and pre-rooted bulbs at our retail location, The Bulb Shoppe, that are ready for you to take home and enjoy. The Bulb Shoppe’s hours are Monday – Saturday 9 am – 4 pm.  You can also plant the pre-potted bulbs in a vacant spot in your garden where you forgot to plant bulbs last Fall.



Planting for Summer Color

Our Summer catalogue is filled with gorgeous options you can plant soon for a spectacular summer display. Summer-bloomers do not require any chilling.  However, except for Lilies, most Summer bulbs prefer to be planted in warm soil (i.e. 60°F). It’s best to wait until mid-March or April to create your container for outdoor use, or if you live in an area that has a longer Winter, you can pot each type of bulb to start inside to get a jump on the growing season. Summer bulbs should be available on-site in The Bulb Shoppe about mid-March, which is also the time we begin shipping them out to our customers who live too far away to be a ‘walk-in-customer’.


A Few Thoughts Before You Begin

Before you begin, decide what you want as an end result:  

1. Container type
    • Round pots seen from all sides? Easily achievable by planting the tallest flowers in the center; the medium heights next and the shortest flowers around the edge of the container.
    • Rectangular pots seen from one side? Easily achievable by planting the tallest flowers in the back of the container, the medium heights in the middle and the shortest flowers in the front.
    2. Bloom time
      • Simultaneous blooms? Choose flowers that bloom either early, midseason, late in the blooming season.
      • Sequential blooms lasting all summer? Choose flowers for multiple seasons of bloom.
      3. Color preference
        • Cool colors? Pink, blue, white, purple, etc. 
        • Warm colors? Bright but warm colors like yellow, orange, bronzy tones, etc.
        • All white colors for evening viewing under lights.



        How to Layer Summer Bulbs in Your Containers

        First, select a coarse growing media (soil) suitable for potting perennials or shrubs.  A media containing bark, wood fiber or coir in the mix is best for good drainage. Avoid a peat-based seed-starting mix.

        Choose a container with drain holes and do NOT cover them with coffee filters, rocks or other materials, which may keep the pot from draining properly.

        Start by placing at least 3”-4” of soil in the bottom of the container.  When roots have plenty of soil in which to grow, the plants will grow healthier, stronger and last longer.


        Best Bulbs and Perennials for Growing in Summer Containers

        Almost all Summer-flowering bulbs and tropical plants are great candidates for your Summer container gardens.

        Very large pots – 15” to 36” or larger

        Medium pots – 12”-15”

        • Begonia
        • Polianthes
        • Caladium
        • Gloriosa
        • Scadoxus
        • Crinum
        • Hippeastrum (Amaryllis)
        • Sprekelia
        • Dahlia
        • Hymenocallis
        • Zantedeschia (Calla)
        • Eucomis
        • Lilies (plant deep in pots)
        • Gladiolus (plant deep in pots)

        Small pots – 8” -12”

        • Bletilla
        • Oxalis
        • Zephyranthes



        Possibly the best part of planting bulbs in pots is arranging them in your yard. You can try flanking your front porch with matching arrangements or creating several unique works of living art. Have fun experimenting with your potted bulbs this year and enjoy surrounding your outdoor living space with waves of vibrant color.


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