Some of the first flowers to start blooming in the spring are tulips and daffodils. These flowers grow well in northern states because they have to go through a chilling period before they will bloom. Planting these flowers will bring forth color when everything around them is still drab from the winter months. If you like these flowers but have no room for them, you can plant them outside in containers in the fall. This will allow you to be presented with a beautiful container garden when spring arrives.
Choosing the Bulbs
You will start seeing bulbs at garden centers in mid to late fall. You need to be careful when shopping for your bulbs, as some of them may not be very healthy. First, make sure the bulb feels firm and plump. If you come across any that are mushy or moldy, discard them. Another way to tell if a bulb is in good condition is to put it in a bucket of water. If the bulb floats, then this means the insides are much lighter and they are rotten. Healthy bulbs should not be able to float at all. All of this is especially true if you purchase bulbs at the very end of the fall season when they are discounted.
Choosing the Right Container and Soil
Because the containers are outside, during the winter months, the water in the soil can freeze. When this happens, the soil expands. This expansion can break ceramic or terra cotta pots. Instead of these pots, use plastic containers, which can be found at any garden center. You have to think of the size of the container, which will depend on how many bulbs you want to plant. For example, if you are planting a couple of tulip bulbs, a small container works well. If you want to plant several bulbs in one container, purchase a large one so they will all fit. Talk with the garden center, who can tell you the right size to purchase for how many bulbs you are planting. Make sure the plastic container has drainage holes on the bottom of it.
The soil should be fast draining and porous as you do not want water collecting around the bulbs, as they could rot. Soil that has a good percentage of bark, vermiculite, or perlite works well.
Planting the Bulbs
Bulbs should always be planted approximately six weeks before your first frost. Always plant bulbs with the pointed side up, as this is where the plant emerges. The bulbs must be at a certain depth. The instructions that come with the bulbs will tell you this information. You need to make sure this is correct, because if there is not enough dirt over the bulb, they could start sprouting too early if you have a warm spurt during the water. In many cases, you will plant the bulb in a soil depth that is twice the diameter of the bulb. If you are planting more than one bulb in the container, know the spacing requirements for each bulb, which will be on the packaging.
If you have any questions about planting these bulbs, ask an employee at a garden center (such as one from Container Creations LLC), who will be able to help you.