Planting Our Container Tulips, 2016

It’s a good thing I got the 200 daffodil bulbs from Colorblends planted pretty fast, because hard on their heels (do bulbs have heels?) came the tulip bulbs from John Scheepers.


I plant these tulips in containers, which I’ve been doing for four years in a row now. It’s pretty simple: I dump out most of the potting mix, add one or two handfuls of compost, lay down the tulips, then replace the potting mix.

The containers are all either a single variety or at most a mix of two. When two varieties are planted together, I try to make sure they bloom at the same time.


One of the nice things about tulips in containers is that you can move them around, so the best looking blooms can always be given pride of place. The spent tulips, meanwhile, can be kept in a less obvious spot until their pots are filled with summer annuals. As a result, I don’t worry about extending the bloom period of any one individual container.

Tulips ready to be sorted for planting.

This fall there are fourteen containers (it seems additional containers were recruited while I wasn’t looking). I pack the bulbs in pretty tightly, averaging 15 bulbs per pot.

Forgetting about the new pots, I only ordered 180 tulips – which meant it was necessary to then order another 30. (Judy mentioned that an alternative would be to leave two of the pots without tulips. Naturally I told her that such an idea was pure madness.)

However, 30 tulips was not enough to make up an order, so I had to add 75 Grape Hyacinths (50 Muscari armeniacum, and 25 M. ‘Valerie Finnis’). These went mostly into the Back Garden Raised Bed.


This year I won’t be burying the tulip pots. By mistake I left a few containers in the unheated garage last winter and they all came through fine. Some were a little puny, but I think that’s because I allowed them to get too dry. Plus, burying the pots – and digging them up again – is a big, messy production.

With tulips nestled inside the pots, I planted pansies on top and placed them back along the path to our house. The rabbits have been nibbling away at the pansies, so they don’t look like much. However, there is still no frost in the weather prediction so they may last long enough to provide us with some November color.

The lesson I took from this is that the containers will probably be fine if left outside. In fact, they would be better insulated out in the snow than they would be in the garage. My plan now is to line them up against the back fence and cover them with a layer of leaves. I’m pretty confident that will work.

Have you planted any bulbs yet in your garden?


60 Comments on “Planting Our Container Tulips, 2016

  1. Chipmunks and squirrels eat the bulbs in the ground so I stopped trying. You always make me want to try containers but I’m not sure where I could store them securely. I always love seeing your spring extravaganza. 🙂

  2. I am trying, yet again, to grow tulips in pots without the bulbs rotting. I have a new plan and 110 tulip bulbs fresh for the slaughter… If I used super cheap, crappy potting soil I wouldn’t have the moisture retention problem that plagues me but then I’d have miserable summer annuals. My new plan involves Permatil and rice hulls from Organic Mechanics along with a deeper layer of rocks for drainage.

  3. You planted 14 containers? That’s a lot.

    I did plant bulbs this year –crinums, amaryllis, purple oxalis, iris, rain lilies, Ipheion uniflorum ‘ Rolf Fiedler’ and Ornithogalum nutans. Brent from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs was the featured conference speaker this year at the Tyler, Texas Bulb Sale. I’ve learned something new both times I’ve gone to their bulb conference.

    • I get the Brent and Becky’s catalog – I love plant catalogs – but I have never ordered from them. You have a lot of bulbs I don’t have but I am interested in them. By the way, I notice that my comment on your blog never appeared. Is it possible I ended up in the spam folder?

  4. Very ambitious planting all those bulbs. A profusion of color for next spring for sure. I’ll definitely have to give that a try. How do you prevent squirrels from digging in and storing their nuts? I have tried some garden netting, but was just curious as to your method?

  5. Wow, your tulip efforts are impressive! And I know from past years that your spring show is incredible! I planted the Colorblends daffodils, and I’d intended to plant some tulips in pots, too, but never got around to it. Maybe I can get in an order yet …

  6. I have also planted one container this far with tulips. I give them a good watering, and then put them in the unheated greenhouse. That works well. But I still have a lot of bulbs to plant yet.

  7. I remember your pots of tulips last year, and I’m thinking of trying a few in pots next autumn…that way I might find somewhere to keep them safe from cockatoos…well, worth a try anyway.(judging from other comments, many critters and in our case, birds, love tulips!)

      • Someof our tulip bulbs were pulled out of the soil & the bulbs have deep beak marks in them but we think curiosity rather than hunger.

  8. I’m about half way planting my bulbs, all the daffs are in and the tulips just started, then these will be followed by the alliums. I’ve gone a bit overboard with the alliums this year, so hopefully they will make a nice display.

  9. If your pots are frostproof that is probably the best idea… I tried keeping some in our unheated garage one winter and some bulbs started sprouting in January! The shoots then shrivelled and died, so the display was not as good as I had hoped. I always have a few tulips in my patio containers (the leftovers get put in there) and they always seem fine, even after a really hard winter.

  10. I always look forward to seeing your pots of tulips in spring. I’ve planted Hyacinths in the garden and need to push on with the daffodils (maybe today); it is too early here to plant tulips, I’ll plant those in December.

  11. I have never planted tulips in pots but have thousands in the garden that mostly come up every year. However I do plant lilies in pots and they work very well. After one year in the pot I then replant them in the garden and they do come back.

  12. Back in the early 70’s when we were planting the gardens, my husband and I traveled to Holland, Michigan for the tulip festival. We ordered a couple hundred bulbs to be shipped in the fall. We planted them when the time came and I eagerly awaited spring. And spring came and nothing. We began digging up the beds and found not one tulip bulb. Animals had dug up and eaten everything. To this day, I still have the daffodils only because animals don’t like them. But nary a tulip. Never thought about putting them in pots, but I am sure the squirrels would dig them up out of there as well.

  13. No bulbs at the little house in the big woods. But I sure do enjoy seeing the blooms of your labor in the spring.

  14. Wow, I’m impressed, Jason–200 daffodils?!! I planted 100 and thought I was doing pretty well. Of course, I was planting them around tree roots, which meant a lot of hand digging. I tried one pot of tulips last year and buried it as you suggested. It worked out much better than other methods I’ve tried, though I can’t imagine burying and digging up 15 pots! This year I decided all the tulips are going in the ground. I’m anxious to see how your pots do next spring; I may try it again if yours do well. I have about 44 tulips still to plant…not that I’m counting:)

  15. You’ve done well and I always like hearing about your storage methods and how they’ve evolved. Will live vicariously again this year and enjoy your springtime show!

  16. Those are a lot of pots! I’ve heard (and had experience) with some tulips not blooming again in the 2nd or 3rd year. What do you do with the tulips after the 1st year – leave them in the pots or plant them out?

    • Mostly I treat the hybrid tulips in pots as annuals – they go on the compost after they bloom. I plant species tulips in the ground – they are smaller, easier to work with, and more reliably perennial.

    • Glad to hear it! By the way, Ricki, is there any chance that my comments on your blog are ending up in the spam folder? They seem to be disappearing.

  17. Hello Jason, we’ve bought a small handful of bulbs – more of a “taster” selection, but nothing close to the scale and numbers that we actually need to make an impact. I was hoping that this year would be the year of the mass-bulb planting, but it was not to be, perhaps next year. I’ll look forward to your tulips in the mean time.

    • You’ve had a pretty intense year in the garden already, it seems. By the way, Sunil, is there any chance my comments on your blog are getting stuck in the spam folder? They seem to be disappearing.

  18. I am glad you aren’t burying your pots this year. I thought that was a little over kill for tulips. I bet they will be fine. You wear me out with all this bulb planting. I have planted a few bulbs. I have a few more to plant…in the ground. Do carry on. I look forward to seeing your bulb displays.

  19. I never plant tulips in my small community garden in Southern California as it’s rare they’ll reemerge the following year. I’d rather save the in ground space planting bulbs that do well here. But wow, tulips in containers! What a space saver for the unusual kinds I would like to grow, even if only for a season. Thanks for the great idea!

    • I imagine tulips would have a hard time in Southern California. Maybe at a high elevation? They are really a bulb for cold, or at least cool, winters. What kind were you thinking of planting?

  20. My tulip bulbs are still sitting on the back porch waiting for a bit of dry weather so that I can plant them in the garden. I may follow your fine example and throw them in pots if this blessed rain doesn’t let up soon.

  21. Looking forward to seeing these all in bloom next year 🙂 Our bulb order was delivered yesterday so that’s what we’ll be doing this weekend. The daffodils are going to be planted late but fingers crossed they’ll be ok. Lots of lovely tulips – yippee.

  22. Just a tip: If you’re buying a lot of the same bulb use Van Engelen, Scheeper’s sister wholesale company. It’s cheaper! Sometimes I put in an order with friends. : )

    • Thanks. I do get the Van Engelen catalog, but I like to order lots of different varieties – can’t help myself – which means smaller quantities of each.

  23. My tulips come up every year, even thought they aren’t supposed to. And my Scilla is beginning to spread which makes me smile. I envision rivers of blue…
    What I wonder about is roses in containers. The only place I have sun is the driveway between the garage and the house. For years I’ve thought of roses in containers there, but fear they’d freeze in the winter. Perhaps if I heap leaves around them before the frost. Do you know of any containers that are designed to insulate the plants through a winter?

    • Tulips can be much more perennial than they are given credit for, though there is a tendency for them to weaken and send up only leaves. I use species tulips in the beds and borders, they are generally perennial and will sometimes naturalize. They hybrid tulips I use like annuals, though many will come back.

    • In answer to your question, I’m afraid not. I think in general larger containers are better, and if you can insulate them with something (leaves or whatever) that’s better still.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: