How to Plant Bulbs in Pots to Add Splashes of Color Anywhere

Pots filled with the cheery spring blooms of bulbs make it easy to add pockets of color wherever you need them. Here's how to create your floral masterpieces.

Growing spring-blooming bulbs in containers is an easy way to decorate your deck, patio, or front entryway with beautiful colors and sweet scents early in the growing season. Even with limited gardening space, you can always squeeze in a few pots of hyacinths or daffodils into empty nooks and crannies. Plus, protecting your bulbs from deer, rabbits, and rodents can be easier when you plant them in a container instead of the ground. Although it's easy to do, here are a few things you need to know about planting spring bulbs in outdoor containers to ensure you get the best flower display.

grape hyacinth and tulips in planter
Adam Albright

Choosing Containers and Bulbs to Plant

You can grow virtually any bulb in containers, and you can mix different types of bulbs, too. It's a lot like growing bulbs in the ground. Start with a container with drainage holes so excess water can escape, and plant your bulbs in the fall. Most spring-blooming bulbs prefer well-drained soil and will rot and die if they stay too wet for too long.

If you want to leave your bulbs outdoors all winter, select a large container that will hold enough soil to insulate the bulbs. In the coldest-winter regions, that means a container at least 24 inches in diameter.

How to Plant Spring Bulbs in Pots

Fill your container with a high-quality potting mix (don't use garden soil) and plant your bulbs as deeply as you would in the ground; for instance, 6 or 7 inches deep for tulips and daffodils, and 4 or 5 inches deep for little bulbs such as crocus and Siberian squill. Water your bulbs well after planting.

If you grow bulbs in a container that's too small to spend the winter outdoors or one that is made from a material such as terra-cotta that needs protection from freezing temperatures, keep the planted bulbs someplace that will stay consistently cold but not below freezing, such as a garage or shed. Don't bring your bulbs indoors; most homes (even the basements) will be too warm for them to develop properly.

pink and purple flowers tulips in terra cotta pot
Kritsada Panichgul

Spring Bulb Planting Partners

Once temperatures warm in spring, you can augment your containers of spring bulbs with cool-season annuals such as lettuce, Swiss chard, pansy, nemesia, or African daisy. Or pack more punch in one pot by mixing types of spring bulbs. Plant your bigger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, deeper. Cover them with soil, then plant smaller bulbs directly above them, such as crocus, grape hyacinth, or snowdrops.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are pollinators drawn to bulb flowers?

    Bulbs are a sweet addition to your garden if you want wildlife around. Many bulb flowers often have large amounts of nectar, which draws bees and hummingbirds.

  • How quickly should you plant bulbs?

    If possible, plant bulbs as soon as you get them home. Bulbs that aren't planted right away should be stored in a cool, dry place: A refrigerator crisper drawer works well.

  • Do bulbs stored for winter need watering?

    Yes, but as the weather gets colder, they'll need less watering. Water bulbs over winter when the soil begins to dry out.

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