Growing Fall Bulbs In Pots


When it comes fall planting, most people think of planting tulips into flowerbeds around the house or in the garden.
But here is something a bit different that you might want to try with your tulips this fall. Rather than planting your tulip bulbs into the ground, plant them into pots. I’ve done this for years because it is simple as can be, plus I have a blaze of colourful flowers long before anything else is transplanted outside.
Now, not everyone can put tulips into pots because one needs some free space and a cold storage area. But if you have garage or storage shed that is cold during winter (anything around the freezing mark but not down into the minus 20s!) and a bit of extra space, then you’re set. You’ll have tulips poking through the soil in March.

Here are the step by step instructions for very early spring tulips:

  • Choose a pot. I like bigger pots but smaller are just fine.
  • Add good quality potting soil to the pot. Garden soil is too heavy and dense, plus it often contains too many weed seeds.
  • Fill the pot to within about 15 cm of the top of the rim.
  • Place the tulip bulbs on the potting soil with the "pointy part up". Put lots of bulbs into the pot for a really good spring show. I like to plant the bulbs about 3cm apart.
  • Cover the bulbs completely with potting soil leaving a few centimeters of space below the rim so that the pot can be easily watered.
  • Water the pot thoroughly and then place it in a warm spot for at least 2 weeks to allow roots to develop. The rooted bulbs will not bloom, after rooting, until their "chilling requirement" has been met, which is equivalent to about a month or so of freezing to near freezing temperatures.
  • Once the bulbs have received their chilling requirement, they are ready to bloom. The trick at this point is to keep the tulips cold until you are ready to place them outside. If you warm the bulbs too early, the shoots will pop out of the potting soil and become floppy and die. I keep my tulips cold until about the 3rd week of March and then I place them on my deck and give them a good shot of water. If it does freeze outside even after the tulip shoots have emerged they won’t be harmed.

Usually, this pot planting technique allows me to enjoy tulips in early April - a good month before the regular garden tulips begin to bloom.
So if you have some extra cold space in your garage or cellar, give potted tulips a try. It really is a thrill to see tulips popping out of pots when there is still a foot of snow on the ground.

~Jim Hole