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Planting Bulbs in Containers for Spring Blooms

By Carol Gilmore, Colorado Master Gardener

Are you ready for a spectacular movable display of flowers that are easy care and can be placed in the best spot for a spectacular exhibition? Try planting bulbs in pots or containers in the fall or winter so they can be easily moved to add a splash of color where it will be on the best display.


Planting bulbs in pots or bulb vases and having them bloom indoors in the dark of winter has brightened many households. Grow bulbs of paperwhites, tulips or amaryllis indoors to brighten the winter doldrums or place them in pots and display them outdoors in spring.

Select a pot that is large enough to plant the bulbs at their proper depth and follow the planting instructions. Make sure the pot has good drainage. A 24-inch diameter pot works well. Use a good quality potting mix and have at least 2 inches of soil below the bulbs for insulation. Plant bulbs with the pointed growing tip facing up.

Layering bulbs in large containers allows for different types and colors of flowers but be sure to plant bulbs that will bloom at the same time. Bulbs can be paired beautifully with perennials and annuals. A display of one solid color bloom is also striking.

Planting time recommendations vary from normal fall planting to just long enough for the chilling phase required. Spring flowering bulbs need to be chilled for 8 to 16 weeks in order to produce fully formed blooms. Plan accordingly if there are leftover bulbs around that didn’t get planted in the fall.

Pots will need protection in our sometimes-harsh winter climate. The soil temperature should be in the range of 35° to 45°F. This is accomplished naturally by the soil depth that bulbs are planted at in the ground, but this has to be recreated in pots. Do not let them freeze. Options to keep planters from freezing in our climate include storing them in a cold frame or grouping them together and wrapping them in bubble wrap in a protected area. Keeping them in an attached garage where they won’t be subject to car exhaust or burying them in the ground and mulching them are other options. Over winter, water them sparingly to encourage root growth, but not so wet that the bulbs will rot.

Bring the pots into the sunlight once they start to sprout and the weather warms enough so they don’t freeze. Once they are done blooming, replant in the ground to enjoy another year. New bulbs are best for planting in containers.

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