Newbie: Bulbs in Containers

pondluvrJanuary 1, 2010

Hello. I would like to container garden with bulbs. I've had bulbs in my garden in the past, but between moles, soil conditions, and other rodents, they do not survive for long. I would like to try bulbs in containers and see if I can be more successful.

I was given some tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulbs for Christmas. It is so late, and I just do not know what I'm doing. I am pretty much new to bulbs. What do I do so they will bloom in the Spring, even if it's late in the Spring? I have an unheated garage, but there are times it does get below freezing. I can pot them up, but what then? I am just totally lost here. I've gotten much good info on these forums in the past regarding other garden issues. I'm hoping somebody can tell me what to do. A few of the tulip bulbs are already starting to sprout, and now I'm afraid they are going to be ruined.

By the way, I do know that bulbs need a certain amount of time below 48 degrees to bloom properly. Since I probably do not have that much time before outdoors temps get above that, I could put them in a refrigerator when temps start getting too high in my garage. We have a refrigerator out there that is empty. I could plug it in just for the bulbs if necessary.



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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Happy New Year, Sandy!

Having a garage probably gives you another couple of zones' worth in gardening terms - unless you get more than, say, 7 degrees of frost in there, and it lasts for days. If it does then you could use insulation, safe heating, and row covers to prevent the mix and pots from freezing. An old chilly-bin/eskie - whatever it is you call those bins for keeping drinks cool at the beach - could be useful for a few pots.

The main problem is more like providing enough warmth to get the root systems going.

In my version of zone 9 daffodils will start into root growth a few weeks from now (though I'm not so sure about this year...:-((( ). The bulbs that have been lifted and dried will wait until planted but the in-ground ones will have a head start.

Early tulips can often be planted right into early winter and make enough growth to flower in 6-8 weeks in a warm zone, though the main tall ones are usually much slower off the mark.

Hyacinths can be staggered for planting but I think their breeding has more effect on when they flower than when they were planted. (Seems that way in my garden, anyway.)

When you plant bulbs 'at the proper time' there's a lot of warmth still left in the soil. Then there could be autumn rain, or a friendly gardener with a hose pipe, and they put out their roots.

In zones like mine, where the frosts are mild and snow is a "Wow! Gosh! Lookit that!!!" occurence, the bulbs keep growing all the winter. They don't go into 'wait for spring' mode.

My temperatures range from 27F up to 60F - apart from a few freaky hot days - and it rains very frequently.

And your garage will be similar - apart from the rain!

I'd experiment, I think. I'd use a fairly gritty and free-draining mix - maybe even like a cactus mix.

I'd plant into fairly shallow pots or bowls - like an azalea bowl - and I'd barely cover the bulbs with just-damp mix.

Then I'd actually keep them in for the day, in the warm - like autumn weather. And put them out at night, into the garage - if it's not too much hassle. (I hope you haven't got lots of bulbs...)

I wouldn't water them again until I knew there were roots emerging. I'd find that out by gently moving the mix away and being nosey!

Normally you wouldn't plant any of these bulbs in such shallow containers. However, you don't want lots of cold damp mix snuggling up to bulbs that haven't got the roots to cope with the water. Some of them will rot - particularly if they were a bit soft to start with. Take them out, if you notice them, though they might not be obvious until the leaves start to push through.

Once the roots are growing then the bulbs can go out to the garage full time. Keep a careful eye on the watering. Even in shallow containers it can stay quite damp if the temperature around isn't very high - and there will be no wind to help whisk it away.

When the leaves are up you'll need to put them into good light so they don't go straggly, and keep turning them.

It's worth a try for a few late-late to plant bulbs.

Later on this year you could come back for the tips for container- growing bulbs for your actual zone, from the friendly experts here who know about long-lasting frost and snow first hand! ;-)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 5:18AM
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Maryl zone 7a

There have been many good discussions in the past about growing bulbs in containers. Many of us with poor soil, no soil or nice containers dream of perennializing bulbs in pots. Below is a link to one of the more recent discussions. It's not very encouraging about the longevity of the method, but it is certainly doable on an annual basis.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bulbs in Containers

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 3:08PM
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Thanks for the advice, both of you who replied!! I am going to take my chances and pot them up, keeping them in my unheated garage. I called a couple local nurseries, and they gave me some suggestions based on my particular zone and local weather. I did not realize I will probably only get one year out of the bulbs. I still don't understand why, if you keep them cold in a pot in a garage, it would be any different than planting in the ground. I have a LOT to learn, and am reading, reading, reading.

I appreciate all your time and effort responding. Thanks!!


    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 8:12PM
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The daffs you should get more than a year, just not the tulips. Tulips are just bad at perennializing/naturalizing although if you cut the flowers off isntead of letting them go to seed and don't water them in summer, you may get a second year of flowers. Darwin hybrids are supposed to be better at coming back for a few years, and so are species tulips (the little 'wild' tulips). Hyacinths I don't know, this is my first year trying to grow them.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 1:58AM
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I have 4 Queen of the Night Tulips in a planter indoors. They were planted in October. I spotted them peeking through the soil a few weeks ago and brought them inside. From what I've read here - they will not bloom for a second year in that planter.

After they have bloomed and are all brown, should I dig them up and plant them in the soil?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 10:43PM
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