Gardening In Pots
The biggest asset for a small garden
From February to October flowers will come and go. Tulips last from March to May, Lilies from June to July, Nerines from September to October. Before you know it, your garden beds can be full of bulbs to last you through the year. Many bulbs are hardy and perennial so you can leave them in the ground, but if you are like us, we like to change things around on a regular basis.
Planting in pots allows you to plant for a short period of time without disturbing other bulbs. You can rotate a pot of daffodils (flowering in March) with a pot of tulips (flowering in April) to give you a perfect and tidy display.
And, working on one pot at a time is a lot less daunting than digging over a whole garden bed!
A small garden
Maybe you rent and the garden isn’t yours to work on. Planting bulbs in pots is an easy way to get some flowering colour without disturbing the land. You can use pots on a small patio or balcony to great effect.
A mobile garden
There’s no doubt that pots can get pretty heavy when full of moist soil. Nonetheless, pots can be moved relatively easily. It’s really handy if you are curating a courtyard garden, or want to show off your prize flowers at the front of the house!
Tender plants that need a warms start in a green house, like ranunculus or freesias can be moved into the sun once the threat of frosts have passed.
Raising the pots at the back is also a very attractive technique to give your space some height. Just swap out the pots that have finished flowering with something new and keep your garden evolving.
How to plant in pots
From my experience, the bigger the better. A pot is much more likely to dry out during dry periods compared to a garden bed. Much more of the soil is exposed to the air. By using a larger pot there is more chance of the soil retaining moisture.
Anything will do
So long as the container is made strong and has a hole at the bottom to let the water escape you can use anything you like.
Ceramic pots can be very expensive. I have used tin baths, butler sinks, hollow logs, black crates and old jugs successfully. Mostly I use large horticultural 50l pots. They aren’t pretty but they do the job and I have used the same ones for 10 years now.
Although pots have a tendency to dry out they can also become water logged if they dont have enough drainage.
There might be a hole at the bottom of the pot but the water needs room to escape. Make sure there is some clearance between the drainage hole and the surface it is sitting on.
Placing rubble at the bottom of the pot isn’t necessary so long as the soil is good quality.
Compost on it’s own is not the best soil. It looks great to start with but over time it will compress. Once compost dries out beyond a certain point it will not absorb water effectively. We recommend using a mixture of grit (for drainage), top soil (for moisture retention) and compost (for healthy nutrient rich sustenance).
Placing grit over the top of the soil helps suppress weeds, anchor the bulbs and retain moisture.
Room to grow
Consider the right size for your bulbs. Many bulbs will create a lot of roots and it is recommended that you need at least two thirds of the pot to let roots develop. For example, if you plant tulips 10cm deep you will need 20cm for the roots.
This is a technique that has hundreds of videos dedicated to it! It’s a great way to extend the flowering time of your pots. However, make sure you don't overcrowd your pots. Keep in mind how much foliage each plant will produce. Alliums will overshadow anything trying to peek through at a lower level. Read more here
How many bulbs to a pot?
Tulips make fantastic displays in pots. Use fresh, peat-free or soil based compost mixed with a little grit in a cleaned pot and allow the following amounts of bulbs:
7 to 10 bulbs for a 20cm pot
13 to 15 bulbs for 30cm pot
20 to 25 bulbs for a 50cm pot
Small bulbs planted 3-5cm apart will guarantee a pot pack with pleasing colours. Expect to plant 50 bulbs in a large container