I am always looking to cram more color into spring.So when Longfield Gardens offered me the chance to try 25 Mystic Van Eijk tulips and 50 grape hyacinths, I was happy to take them up on it.
But we have a lot of voles and chipmunks around here, which love to eat tulips. We also have clay soil, and tulips tend to rot in it. I decided to plant them all in a 22-inch container. That way I had control over the soil texture, and, hopefully, control over who gets into the pot.
Ensure adequate drainage
It is extremely important to make sure your container has adequate drainage.Last year I used a different container with only one hole and it held too much water and the tulips rotted. I actually had these holes enlarged from their original size. And of course then I worried that too much potting mix will come out of the holes, so I lined the inside of the pot with coffee filters. Then it was time to fill the container with potting mix. True confession: most of the potting mix is re-used from previous plantings. I use fresh mix just below the bulbs, where the roots will benefit from the plentiful nutrients. (Often I put an up-ended smaller pot to take up some space in the bottom, but this time I used old potting mix.) The instructions that Longfield Gardens included with the bulbs showed three different ways to plant the two kinds of bulbs. The other two patterns were better suited to a garden bed. I’m going to use this pattern: When the directions say to plant bulbs six inches deep, did you ever wonder if you measure from the bottom of the hole or the top of the bulb? I know I did. Longfield makes this unambiguous: After filling the pot about seven inches (six for the tulips and one to allow for watering) from the top with potting mix, I laid the tulips out as evenly spaced as I could manage. Tip: The flat side of the tulip bulb produces a large leaf. Position the flat side toward the wall of the pot, so that this leaf will drape over the edge of the pot. The grape hyacinths (muscari) only need to be planted four inches deep. I use a trowel with inch markings to make sure I add two inches of potting mix. Remember I said I had trouble with rodents? I had to think of a way to keep them from digging in the container. I thought about cutting a piece of chicken wire (also called poultry netting) to cover it, but decided to borrow my homemade wheelbarrow sifter for the winter. My abundant supply of rocks provided the means to keep the sifter in place.
It is said that any plant in a container should be two zones hardier than typical for the climate. Longfield Gardens says the grape hyacinths are hardy to zone 4. The tulips are supposed to be even hardier. We haven’t had temperatures go any lower than -10F in the last few winters, which is USDA Zone 6. I am gambling that they won’t go any lower this winter, but it is a gamble. I really don’t have any place to shelter this big container so that it remains below freezing but above 0F, so I am just crossing my fingers.
I just can’t wait to see those beautiful tulips blooming on my deck! As long as your potting soil isn’t frozen and you have an available container, you can still plant bulbs now for a gorgeous spring display. You might want to plant in the shelter of a garage or garden shed, or maybe you will get lucky and have a mild day in which to work. If your winters get even colder than mine, you will want to protect the planted container from the worst cold, and haul it out for display around mud season, so that it can acclimate to the outdoors and bloom on schedule.
Longfield Gardens provided the tulip and muscari bulbs for this tutorial. Thank you very much!