Potted Bulbs for the Patio

    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Cut asparagus down to about two inches above the ground once all of the foliage has died. Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • There’s still time to plant garlic sets for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose California white, Spanish roja or Elephant garlic varieties now available.

Potted Bulbs for the Patio

Gardeners have been growing bulbs in pots and other containers for hundreds of years. Planting bulbs in containers gives you the opportunity to enjoy the fragrance and beauty of their flowers up close, to experiment with bulbs that are new to you, and to easily change the look of your garden every year.

Bulbs in containers have different needs than those planted directly in the ground. Compared to a flower bed, any container holds just a small amount of soil. As with any container planting, you need to supply everything the bulb needs.

When the water in soil freezes, it expands, and that can easily break terra cotta, ceramic, and even rigid plastic pots. To avoid this, plant your bulbs in flexible plastic pots – common black plastic nursery pots, for example – and then slip these pots into decorative cache-pots in the spring when the bulbs start to bloom.

Bulbs in pots are typically planted much closer together and less deep than bulbs in the ground. Plant bulbs so they’re close but not touching, with their tips just below the soil surface. The goal is to leave as much room as possible under them for root growth. Arrange tulip bulbs with their flat side facing out for a neater display of leaves.

Cold is essential for winter bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Place the pots in a cold, dark location like an unheated garage or garden shed – somewhere chilly but where the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing – for fastest rooting. Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. It takes 3 or 4 months for these cold-hardy bulbs to root.

When they’re ready to be moved, you will see roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pots or new stem growth at the top that’s about two inches high. Then move them to a sunny patio or deck and sit back to enjoy the show. In about three weeks, you will be delighted by the beauty that you have created in your containers.

For the most part, it’s best to just plant one type of bulb in each container. But there are a few combinations that work well together. One called “February Starlight” combines dark blue hyacinths with a sweet little rock garden narcissus. They will bloom for you in early spring.

Of course, you can plant three different kinds of fragrant narcissus together in a pot and they will bloom together and perfume the air around them.

Paperwhite Narcissus don’t need to be chilled first like others do. You can grow them in a pot in soil, or in a bowl with just rocks and water. Plant them either way, then place the containers in a cool, dark place – like a closet indoors – for 2-3 weeks, until the shoots are an inch or two tall. Then move them to a bright location, with no direct sunlight, and enjoy their beauty and fragrance in your home.

Enjoy the magic of spring bulbs indoors or outside in all your living areas, by planting them this month.

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