Gardening with Allen: Spring bulbs can cheer containers




Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at

I live in an apartment. I have a large tub and some smaller containers where I would like to plant flower bulbs. Could you give me some suggestions?

Fall planted flower bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and grape hyacinths do very well in containers. Containers less than 8 inches in diameter can be placed in a refrigerator and forced into bloom as early as December. Larger containers can be placed on a deck or similar location. Flower bulbs placed on a deck or patio will remain dormant for a longer time and will bloom about the same time they would if planted in the ground.

Fill containers with packaged potting soil leaving 2 inches at the top. Bulbs should be placed close together so they are almost touching. Place bulbs so they are just barely covered with soil when the container is filled.

In most cases only one variety of bulb should be planted in containers 6 inches or less. Larger containers may have 2 or more varieties. Plant taller varieties in the center with shorter ones around the edges.

If the soil mix does not contain fertilizer, add a timed release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Water thoroughly until the moisture reaches the bottom of the container.

Flower bulbs need a minimum of 12 weeks at temperatures at 40 to 45 degrees (refrigerator temperature). For earlier blooms place containers in a refrigerator. Check frequently and water as needed to keep soil moist. When you notice the roots start to protrude from the drain holes they can be brought inside into bright sunlight. They will begin to grow within a week and bloom in about 2 weeks.

Place larger containers in a protected location such as under a roof overhang. They can be moved into full sun when they begin to grow at their normal time in early spring.

Bulbs can be left in large containers for a second year of bloom. Plant annual flowers such as petunias or marigolds between bulbs and remove trim the bulb leaves by about half. Then remove leaves when they turn yellow or brown.

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at