Notes from the Test Garden

How to Plant Fall Bulbs in Containers

How to Plant Fall Bulbs in Containers

Bulbs in containers can be even more exciting than bulbs in garden beds. However, you may not want to risk leaving your nice terra-cotta container outside over winter, for fear of it cracking. We’ve got the perfect solution for you—reuse those plastic nursery pots from other plants! For more information about planting bulbs, watch this.

Materials Needed and Process

Here are our tips for using plastic nursery pots as containers for your bulbs. The idea is to let the plastic containers ride out the winter holding your bulbs so that they get cold enough. Come springtime, the plastic containers are easily swapped into and out of your more beloved containers.

1. Layer the bulbs. Make sure that each container is filled with bulbs. That way, they will offer a long season of bloom with a variety of colors and interest.

2. Put about an inch of potting soil into the bottom of the pot.

3. Place the biggest bulbs into the pot. If your bulb is especially big, like a daffodil, you can just place one right in the center of your pot.

4. Cover the biggest bulbs you’ve placed with soil.

5. Place slightly smaller bulbs on the next layer. Make sure to place bulbs around the large one you put on the bottom, so that your largest bulb’s stem will have room to come up in the spring.

6. Cover your second layer of bulbs with more potting soil.

7. Place even smaller bulbs on the next layer. Then cover your smallest bulbs with soil.

8. Don’t worry about having your bulbs too close together. You can ignore the spacing and depth recommendations when planting in a pot like this.

9. Place your smallest bulbs on top of all other layers.

10. Cover your smallest bulbs with about 2 inches of soil.

11. Find a good spot to store your bulbs outside. Bulbs don’t get enough protection in plastic containers, and they can freeze. A good way to combat this problem is to replicate the needed conditions by storing the bulbs in an unheated garage or a cold frame, or by burying the pots in a pile of mulch.

12. If you don’t have the ability to store your bulb containers in any of the ways listed above, you can use a bottomless plastic tub. Place the containers into the tub, and then cover the containers with mulch. The mulch works as a blanket of insulation around the bulbs, keeping them cold enough but not so cold that they get frozen or damaged.

13. Wait for spring!

Bulbs are a wonderful joy to see in the springtime. To hear our podcast detailing the best spring-flowering bulbs, click here.

If you’re looking for information on boring, basic tulips, this is not the podcast episode for you. If the idea of tulips with red striped leaves and grape hyacinths that sparkle like diamonds is more your speed, this is definitely an episode worth listening to. Steve and Danielle start the season off right with suggestions on spring-flowering bulbs that are fragrant and eye-catching, as well as some that are almost as odd-looking as they are alluring.

Expert: Joseph Tychonievich is a horticulturist, plant breeder, and former nursery manager at Arrowhead Alpines who currently gardens in Virginia. Listen here.

View Comments


  1. Maryland_gardener 11/03/2018

    Question(s). In the spring, do you suggest setting the pot out for display, or transplanting all the bulbs? What zones is this appropriate for? (We're in zone 6b/7a). Thanks very much.

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