Any bulb can be grown in a pot. It’s a good way to display the more expensive ones that you might only buy by the handful, such as hyacinth and tulip, as small groupings can get lost in a garden scheme. The same goes for dwarf bulbs, such as grape hyacinth and crocus.
First, choose your container, which must have drainage holes or the bulbs will rot. If you’re going to group pots together, choose a harmonious colour palette but select different shapes and sizes to create more display options. Generally, the bigger the bulbs, the bigger the pot.
Choose premium potting mix and plant the bulbs so the sides are almost cheek to cheek for an abundant display. Two or more varieties can share a deep pot if the bulbs are layered with enough mix between each layer. Bulbs are sold with height, width and bloom-time information. Evaluate the eventual height of each plant and when they flower. If you aim to create a multi-layered display that blooms at the same time, it can be tricky to pull off, but it’s incredibly satisfying when you do.
When you’re planting two or more varieties in the one pot, half fill it with premium potting mix and place the tallest and latest-flowering bulbs in first. Cover the bulbs with mix, then position your next layer, and backfill. The bigger bulbs, such as tulip, daffodil and hyacinth, should be covered with at least 10cm of potting mix, and smaller bulbs need about 3–5cm.
To add interest, plant annuals on top of the bulbs, as the blooms will emerge through the foliage. Suitable choices include sweet alice (alyssum), dwarf Virginia stocks, pansies and violas. Water well and place pots in semi-shade in an inconspicuous part of the garden. While you don’t want them sodden, potted bulbs most often fail due to under-watering.
Once green shoots emerge, sprinkle on complete controlled-release fertiliser and move them to a spot with at least half a day of direct sunlight. When buds appear, transfer them to a prime position by the front door or entertaining area to get full value out of the display.
For potted autumn colour, check out our big seasonal flowerpot in blue, pink and lilac in the March 2021 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.