Growing Bulbs in Outdoor Planters

Many bulbs are well-suited for planting in outdoor containers or planters. You will follow the same procedure as required for bulbs in the ground, but there are a few additional considerations for successfully growing flowering bulbs in a confined space. See also 'Planting & Caring for Flower Bulbs' for general information.

Multiple bulbs of the same type can be used to create a mass planting or 'naturalized' effect in a large planter or you can use a layering technique for different flowering bulbs to create a sequence of blooms throughout the season, or even year.

Flowering Scheme

First, you will want to select a flowering scheme for your bulbs. Do you want all bulbs to flower at approximately the same time for a special event or do you want to create a 'mass display' resembling an in-garden planting? Or, would you like to have a series of blooms to continue through your growing season, or even through the year in some regions?

Select Flowering Bulbs

Once you have decided on a flowering scheme, it's time to choose your bulbs for your planters. You will find flowering bulbs are typically placed in one of three categories :

  • early for Spring
  • mid season for late spring through Summer : see a list of summer-flowering bulbs
  • late bloomers for the Fall/Winter

When grouping bulbs in a planter, be sure to select varieties with similar chilling, light and water requirements.

Here's a simple planting scheme for a spring-flowering bulb container:

  • Plant daffodils at recommended depth and add approximately 2" of soil.
  • Plant tulips and top with more soil.
  • Add smaller bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinths.
  • If desired, top the planted bulbs with pansies, which will last through the winter in some regions.
Make sure that your bulbs are watered regularly to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. As always, be sure to use a planter with good drainage, placed in a location that gets adequate sunlight. Finally, to mask the dying foliage of spring-flowering bulbs, you can interplant a perennial such as hosta or daylily to extend the enjoyment of your planter.