Hybrid tulips can be breathtakingly gorgeous, but they also have a bewildering number of limitations. To begin with, most don’t reliably return for more than two or three years, and even that much longevity requires optimal circumstances. Then, assuming voles, squirrels, and other garden predators don’t steal the bulbs before they bloom, there are the difficulties of hiding their fading foliage and filling the blank patches they leave behind.
However, growing tulips in containers allows you to avoid the majority of these inconveniences. Tulips are attractive, transportable, and safe when they are in pots. Regardless of whether they have had luck growing tulips in the ground, all gardeners should give this straightforward method a shot.
Early fall, just like when you would plant tulips in the ground, is the ideal time to pot them up. Prepare a number of containers with minimum outer dimensions of 18 inches and minimum exterior heights of 15 inches. Any less than that lessens the effect of the planting and the longevity of the bulbs.
Choose from the same class of tulips if you want a certain combination of colors to bloom at the same time. Short groups that blend nicely with spring annuals and won’t tower over their pot, including Single Early, Double Early, and Triumph, are logical options for containers. However, there is no harm in experimenting with taller or more exotic varieties like Viridiflora and Parrot.
Tulips of any kind and color can be used; just make sure to combine cultivars with comparable bloom durations together. Sequential blooming (six tulips blooming one week and another six blooming two weeks later, for example) won’t look quite as magnificent as a design that flowers all at once because you’ll only have room for 18 to 22 bulbs per planter.
Step 1: Plant bulbs so that they almost touch
Place an upside-down plastic growth pot at the bottom of each container to make it lighter and simpler to transfer. Any affordable, light-weight potting mix should be placed in the containers to a depth of two thirds. Put off using fertilizer. Ignore customary spacing recommendations and arrange the tulip bulbs in a close-packed circular configuration. The bulbs should be covered with potting soil and planted at the same depth as in the ground, which is often two to three times the height of the bulb.
Tulips grown in containers are less likely to be disturbed by animals than those put in the ground. Place a wire grid, such as a circular peony support, on top of the soil for additional protection (see photo below), and then cover it with a thin layer of potting soil.
Not all potted bulbs are forced
It’s simple to mix up container gardening with the age-old practice of forcing bulbs, yet the two techniques are very dissimilar.
Bulbs can be planted in pots and kept in a cold place to simulate in-ground planting; the flowers will appear in mid-spring. Bulb forcing is the practice of planting bulbs slightly below the soil’s surface, with the tips protruding (photo, above).
Forced bulbs that have been potted in the fall are kept at root cellar temperature (about 40F) in the dark for 10 to 12 weeks before being transferred from the cellar into a space with light and warmth. They bloom in the middle of winter, much earlier than bulbs sown at standard depths outdoors or in containers.
Step 2: Give them a sheltered spot to spend the winter
Place the potted pots in an uncovered garage if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 7. Because of this, they are shielded from a freeze-and-thaw cycle, which would otherwise transform planted bulbs into mush. You won’t need to water them again until the spring, so water them when you put them in. You’ll need a different plan to keep the containers cold, dry, and insulated if you don’t have an unheated garage and live in an area with freezing weather. The planted bulbs need to be kept just above freezing.
Early in the spring, inspect your pots. Water them sparingly. Bring the tulips out and exhibit them once they begin to emerge from the soil. The tulips will blossom at the same time as those planted in the ground if you water them the same way you would any container plant.
All the restrictions surrounding inground planting still hold true when you gently move the bulbs onto a sunny bed after the blossoms have faded. The best and bravest course of action is to simply compost the used bulbs and begin preparing a new color scheme for the upcoming season.
Keep the show going
You can usually determine when a tulip will flower if you know which group it belongs to. The best technique to extend the tulip season is to create a few containers that contain tulips with various bloom periods. However, as this is not an exact science, be ready to enjoy your tulips if they bloom a bit early or a little late.
Can tulips be planted in a container?
- Use chicken wire to cover planting holes, a fence, repellant spray, or container gardening to keep animals away.
Is there anything happier than a large tulip field blooming in the spring? The profusion of vibrant blossoms is a sight for sore eyes after a protracted winter of cold and snow. You may build and enjoy a robust tulip show in your own yard with these tactics and pointers.
How to Choose Tulips
Hybrid tulips make up the majority of the tulips you see in landscape plantings, as well as those offered for sale at garden centers and home improvement shops. For the greatest impact, hybrid tulips normally need to be replaced every year. (We’ll cover how to persuade them to return below.) When given the proper growing circumstances, species tulips will return year after year in zones 4 to 7. These have smaller flowers and pointier petals than hybrid tulips, and they are shorter.
Individual tulips don’t flower for very long, especially the hybrids. However, there are types that bloom in the early, mid, and late seasons at various periods. When buying, choose a couple cultivars from each bloom time category for a long-lasting display.
Where to Plant Tulips
For the best show, tulips need full sun, which entails at least six hours every day of bright, direct sunlight. They are also great additions to rock gardens since they favor quick-draining soil.
When to Plant Tulips
Fall is the best time to plant tulip bulbs. Prior to planting, the soil must have cooled from the summer growing season, which could occur in September in cold regions (zones 3 to 5), October in transitional temperatures (zones 6 to 7), and November or December in warm areas (zones 8 to 9). Use a soil thermometer to measure the soil’s temperature, and plant when it reaches 60 degrees F at a depth of 6 inches.
For tulips to bloom, they need to be chilled. Buy pre-cooled bulbs and plant them in December if you intend to grow tulips where the soil temperature won’t fall below 60 degrees for at least 12 weeks.
How to Prepare the Soil for Planting Tulips
Use Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers to prepare the planting space for tulips by incorporating 3 inches of garden soil into the top 6 to 8 inches of native soil. Tulips will develop a strong root system in the fall thanks to the nutrients provided by the soil, which is necessary for a significant spring bloom. However, to get the best results from your tulips, you must combine the strength of excellent soil with just the appropriate plant food. For details on what and when to feed tulips, see “How to Feed Tulips” below.
How to Plant Tulips
Tulips should be planted in bunches of 10 or more for the best display. The pointed end should be facing up as you plant each bulb 8 inches deep (measure from the bottom of the bulb and add the depth of any mulch on top of the soil in your measurement). It is possible to place bulbs close to one another. Thoroughly water.
How to Grow Tulips in a Pot
In pots, tulips are simple to grow. The bulbs should be buried at least 8 inches deep, much like with in-ground plantings, so measure from the top of the container to a depth of about 9 inches, then fill the pot up to that point with Miracle-Gro Potting Mix. Put the pointy end of the bulbs in the pot (you can pack them tightly together). After thoroughly watering, cover with the potting mix. Move the container to a cool, dry spot that stays at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter before the first frost in your area. Bring the container outside to a sunny area when you notice tulips budding. Water the soil there. Once you notice green growth, start watering often.
How to Water Tulips
When you plant tulips, make sure to thoroughly water each planting space. After planting, give the plants one watering each week for the first month. Then, leave them alone until spring. When the leaves come out in the spring, start watering once more.
How to Feed Tulips
Apply Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Rose & Bloom Plant Food in accordance with the instructions on the package once the flowers have faded. In order for the bulb to conserve nutrients for the following growing season, this will aid in promoting leaf growth. Every year in the late fall, feed for the final time (around the same time as you would plant new bulbs).
How to Cut Tulips to Enjoy Indoors
When the buds are still tightly closed, cut tulips. You should be able to identify the hue of the blooms despite the petals’ possible greenish tint. Put inside a spotless vase with room temperature water. Once cut and brought indoors, tulips will continue to “grow” (the stems extend). Simply trim a few inches from the bottom of the stems every few days if they start to get unruly. If you mix Miracle-Gro for Fresh Cut Flowers into the water and replace the water every few days, cut tulips will stay longer (compared to water only).
What to Do After Tulips Bloom
The best tulip flower display will typically occur in gardens in the spring that immediately follows the fall when the bulbs are planted. Once the petals have faded, trim the flower stalk back to the plant’s base to encourage species tulips to return year after year. After the bulbs have gone dormant, cease feeding them as previously mentioned, stop watering them, and trim back the foliage once it has completely turned brown. Simply pluck up the bulbs from hybrid varieties (which are not perennial) and compost them.
How to Protect Tulips from Deer and Other Pests
Preventing deer from eating tulip blooms is the biggest obstacle in tulip gardening, closely followed by preventing chipmunks and squirrels from digging up the bulbs. Planting holes or trenches should have chicken wire surrounding them on all sides to prevent bulbs from being dug up. (If you’re planting large sweeps of bulbs, which is how to get the best show from tulips, this is most useful.)
Deer are another matter. Installing a long (8 feet or more) fence is the greatest approach to keep deer out of the garden, but most people cannot afford to do this. Daffodil and Crown Imperial bulbs are not consumed by deer, so interplanting tulips with these varieties may help deter them. Alternatively, you may try misting a deer repellent on bulb foliage. In light of this, it is preferable to grow tulips in pots on a screened-in porch if deer are a significant issue where you live. This way, the deer can’t access to the flowers.
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planting tulip bulbs
In late October, November, or December, plant your tulip bulbs. The cold weather aids in the eradication of viral and fungi illnesses that can infect bulbs and lurk in the soil. Traditional disease prevention strategies include planting late.
I enjoy planting tulip bulbs far deeper than the recommended depth of most gardening guides, which is double the bulb’s depth—in this example, 8 cm (3 in). Tulips are less likely to try to reproduce and are more likely to bloom year after year if they are planted deeply.
Tulips can be arranged singly or in small groups amid perennial plants in your borders, but if you’re planting a lot of bulbs, it could be simpler to dig a trench or hole that is approximately 20 cm (8 in) deep. Cover the base of your garden with 5 cm (2 in) with cleaned sharp sand, horticultural grit, or decomposed compost if you are gardening in heavy soil. In order to promote the growth of next year’s blooms, you may also add a little amount of bone meal and mix it with the grit and soil at the bottom of the hole or trench.
The tulip bulbs should be spaced about 8 cm (3 in) apart, pointy end up, and covered with soil. Again, you can mix grit at a ratio of around one-third grit and two-thirds infill dirt if you garden in heavy soil.
If you don’t have enough room, put a layer of earth over the bulbs first, then add another layer of bulbs before covering the hole. You can still overplant the tulips without harming them because there is still adequate soil above the bulbs.
Use a conventional bulb planter or bulb planting trays to make the process of planting tulips easier. A bulb planter is wonderful if you’re planting among grass or herbaceous plants and bushes. When you press it into the ground, it acts like a huge apple corer and removes a core of soil. Put a little amount of grit or used compost in the bottom of the hole, insert the tulip bulb, and then backfill the hole with grit and compost as you would in a trench.
planting tulips in a pot
In the final weeks of October, November, and December, plant tulip bulbs in containers. Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage and use high-quality, peat-free compost.
It’s best to layer bulbs in what the Dutch refer to as a bulb lasagna—multiple layers of bulbs, one on top of the other, with compost in between—to achieve dense and floral spring pot displays. The biggest and most recent flowering bulbs are planted deepest, followed by the tiniest and most recent on the top layer. Emerging shoots from lower layer bulbs simply curve around anything they come into contact with that is seated over their heads and continue to grow.
When done this way, the bulbs should be spaced about 2-3cm (1-11/2in) apart rather than the single layer they would be in a pot. Before adding the next layer of bulbs, cover the first layer with 5 cm (2 in) of potting compost and bury it up to 28-30 cm (11–12 in) deep.
Remove the bulbs after flowering and put them in the ground before summer. To prevent the tulip from wasting energy trying to make seed, leave the foliage alone but prune away any dead flowers.