Good news: there’s still time to pot up containers of some spring- and summer-flowering bulbs – as long as you’re quick. It’s certainly too late for planting daffodils, but November is prime time for tulips; and plenty of other bulbs can be planted in containers now, including crocuses, alliums, nectaroscordum, lilies and hyacinths.
The standard advice is to plant most bulbs in October, giving them time to settle in before the ground becomes frozen and waterlogged. But because pots can be kept in the relative warmth of a greenhouse or shed, you get a little more leeway. Our changing climate also allows for slighter later planting times. If you’re really pushed for time, tulips can even be potted up in early December – store in a cool, dry, dark place until then.
Assuming you bought your bulbs a few weeks ago if they’re in paper bags or cardboard boxes they should be fine. But if they’re in plastic, inspect them and discard any that look rotten or mouldy.
To save space, you can layer different spring bulbs in pots: for example, tulips at the base to bloom in April, with crocuses near the top to flower in March. The crocuses ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ and ‘Whitewell Purple’ are stunning together.
Size up the options
For small containers go for compact tulips – the likes of ‘Couleur Cardinal’ (red) and ‘Foxtrot’ (pink). In larger pots, opt for average-sized ones; with it’s elegant ivory and green flowers ‘Spring Green’ makes a good choice, as do the rich red ‘Bastogne’ and ‘Sanne’ (a pale apricot pink). All flower in April and May. However a few tulips – including ‘Chato’ and the miniature ‘Little Beauty’ – get going earlier, in March.
A succession of blooms
For flowers in late spring and summer, alliums come in a range of forms, from charming cottage garden types (such as A. caeruleum) to architectural wonder A. schubertii, which looks like an exploding firework. Lilies are also excellent in pots, but be aware that they are poisonous to cats. Suitable types include L. speciosum and L. longiflorum (such as ‘White Heaven’ and ‘African Queen’), and compact Asiatic hybrids (including ‘Apollo’ and ‘Côte d’Azur’).
Potting up these beautiful bulbs is no chore – especially as it comes with the promise of containers bursting with flowers when the sun returns in spring.
Container combinations for...
Early to mid-spring
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Anastasia’
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