I Get the Tulips Planted!

Yep, all 90 of them. I planted them in containers for the first time, having decided that tulips weren’t really a good fit in my perennial beds. For starters, the dying foliage flops over other emerging plants. Also, they are often short-lived, and since tulips need to be planted deep, replacing them can be disruptive to established plants.

But Judy loves hybrid tulips. She picked the varieties we ordered and decided how they should be combined in the containers. Here’s what we did:

Tulip 'Flair'
Tulipa ‘Flair’ Photo: Van Englen

Combined tulip ‘Flair’ (red and yellow, early, 14″) with ‘Bellona’ (yellow, early, 14″).

Combined ‘Flair’ with ‘West Point’ (yellow, lily-flowered, 20″, mid-season).

Tulip 'Coleur Cardinal'
Tulipa ‘Coleur Cardinal’ Photo: Van Engelen

Combined ‘West Point’ with ‘Kingsblood’ (red, early, 24″).

Combined ‘Kingsblood’ with ‘La Cortine’ (yellow and red, late, 26″).

Tulipa ‘West Point’ Photo: Van Engelen

Combined ‘La Cortine’ with ‘Coleur Cardinal’ (red and plum, early, 12″).

Combined ”Coleur Cardinal’ with ‘Rainbow Warrior’ (yellow with red edge, mid-season, 22″).

Tulip World Expression
Tulipa ‘World Expression’ Photo: John Scheepers

Combined ‘Bellona’ with ‘Rainbow Warrior’.

Filled a container with ‘World Expression’ (cream and red, late, 24″).

We put 10 tulips in 16″ containers and 8 tulips in smaller containers – probably could have squeezed a couple more into the larger containers. My understanding is you can stick as many tulips as you can into a container, as long as the bulbs aren’t touching. If you’re interested in how to plant tulips in containers (or how I did it, anyhow) it’s pretty simple:

  • Pull out all the container plants and dump them on the compost pile.
  • Pour the potting mix or soil from your containers into a larger container and mix with a few handfuls of compost.
  • Fill the containers with the refreshed mix until it is 6-8″ from the top. Throw in some bulb food if you want, following label directions for quantity.
  • Place the bulbs in the container. You can crowd them in there but they should not be touching.
  • Fill the rest of the container with mix, and give it a good soak with the hose. The containers should not dry out over winter.
  • Store in the garage or basement, a place where the bulbs will be chilled but the container won’t freeze.
Tulip bulbs in container
Tulip bulbs in container. I could probably have squeezed in a couple more. Sadly, I don’t have a proper potting bench, have to make do with the front steps.

And now, to dream of tulips until spring …

30 Comments on “I Get the Tulips Planted!

  1. My Mom is very determined to have me plant tulips in my garden at our new place….I love cut tulips, but for the very reasons that you outlined, I don’t really want them in my garden….And we are a later season here, so when they finally finish, it’s really late.

    Maybe the idea of growing them in containers would work….will have to give that a think.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    • It’s worth a shot. Do you have some of the small bulb like crocus and snowdrop? Also, species tulips, which are a lot smaller, may be easier for you to grow.

  2. Tulips are so cheerful in the spring & growing them in containers is a wonderful solution for you! I have a few that are quite long lived and are planted around hostas so the emerging hosta foliage covers the ripening foliage of the tulips.

    • I keep reading that tulips are short lived but my experience has been mixed. Some have bloomed year after year, others go into decline. You can tell when they send up broad foliage and no flower. The ones in the containers I will treat like annuals – putting them in the compost pile when I want to plant the containers with summer flowers.

  3. wow wonderful collections of colors and lovely shots too. But of course we can’t have them here! Thanks for visiting my site.

    • I enjoyed your site. Too bad you can’t have tulips but then you can grow so many tropical plants unavailable to us here in the midwestern US.

  4. Gorgeous selections! I have never thought to try tulips in containers before. I’ve stopped putting them in my perennial beds because the squirrels and rabbits just can’t seem to leave them alone…and you’re right, I’ve never been a fan of the yellow floppy foliage after bloomtime, either But now I’m thinking I ought to try your excellent solution. Thanks for this!

  5. I planted some freesias, and they didn’t turn out to well, but the Ranunculas are looking pretty good. Mine are in the garden in odd spots. Planting in pots is a good solution if you don’t like the after look of bulbs. Your tulips are beautiful, i love the pinky red one.

  6. I always walk right past tulips bulbs, since we don’t get enough chill here for them. But I forget about putting them in containers! I just may have to give that a try! Thanks for the idea!

  7. Your tulips should be wonderful, and you have convinced me to try this myself. Tulips have to be treated as annuals here, but they are so beautiful! I like the combinations you chose.

  8. Wow, that is quite an accomplishment! I know what a big job bulb planting can be! I just put two Hyacinth bulbs in the ground the other day and felt proud of myself–that’s embarrassing! Actually, I planted quite a few Daffodils last year, which should continue to provide pleasure for years to come. I haven’t planted Tulips for ages because of all the rabbits around here. Maybe I should try the pots like you did.

  9. How satisfying – and what a great display you’ll have next year. I have half that many tulips still to plant, though I’ll probably wait another couple of weeks until the weather is consistently colder. Most will also go in containers this year, though I’ll try and shoe-horn last year’s tulips into the ground where I can in case they return!

      • I’ve only done it once so far, planting out the previous year’s from pots into the ground, and they came up and looked good, so I plan to do the same again this year.

  10. You’re going to have a fantastic display come spring! I don’t know why I’ve never tried planting tulips in containers before; it would certainly be easier than trying to dig 6 or 8 inches down in hard soil. I also have a problem remembering where last year’s tulips are; even though I look at old photos, I often find myself digging up old bulbs to plant the new ones:)

  11. 90 tulips! You are certainly going to have lots of colorful containers. If I can find some more bulbs on sale I just may give a few containers a try myself.

  12. Mine are all still tucked into the fridge getting their chill, the only way I can get them to bloom here in zone 10, so it’s always containers for me. How exciting to get them planted — I can’t wait to pot up mine too, probably toward the end of November. You picked some beauts!

  13. I decided to try tulips this year in a big container in my Gettysburg garden. They should arrive any day now; fortunately I’ll only have 25 to plant.

  14. Hi Jason, I think we’re going to miss the window on planting tulips as I haven’t even ordered mine yet. Then I need to bring the tubs they’d go in down from off the shed roof and then they’ll need new compost and so on and in the end I can’t see it happening. I hope your tulip display is spectacular!

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