Tag Archives: tulips

Planting Tulips in Containers for a Spring Show

China Town, photo courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

I was in a garden store the other day that sported the annual boxes of bulbs on the far side of the wall. Normally I do not purchase tulips because they do not always come back in my Virginia garden. Deer and rabbits eat them; squirrels will dig them up. But I had a new, large container on the deck which deer and rabbits could not access, and these bulbs were only a dollar each, so why not?  I thought it would be fun to create a spring show.

The photo of China Town on one of those boxes grabbed my heart. It is a “viridiflora” type that blooms pink with green streaks up each petal creating a pink/green blossom. The foliage is bluish green with white margins. China Town was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Usually when tulip bulbs are planted in the ground they are spaced 4 to 6 inches apart but in a container, they are planted much closer. I was able to fit 10 bulbs in a 22-inch Rim Crescent Garden container, about 6 to 8 inches deep.

After I planted the bulbs, I watered the container and then added more soil to plant yellow pansies, Johnny jump ups, and a few sprigs of sedum for winter color. This container is in full sun and unless the pansies begin to wilt, I will depend on the rain and/or snow to water the bulbs. Although it is possible to fertilize tulips when planting them in the ground, I did not do it for this container. The potting mix is new and comes with some fertilizer.

Although deer and rabbits are not a problem on my deck, the squirrels think nothing of digging through all of my containers. To deter them, I sprinkled Espoma blood meal. If I had not planted the pansies, I could have kept the squirrels out by covering the top of the container with chicken wire, kept in place with pins, or covering with something sharp like spiny brambles, stems with thorns, or crushed eggshells, all of which would be removed in the spring.

The viridiflora type of tulip should bloom in May and is considered a “late” blooming tulip. The blooms last several weeks and make good cut flowers. China Town will grow to 12 inches, which is short for this category; most grow to 20 inches.

Technically, tulips are perennials but most of the bulbs you see for sale now are treated as annuals here in this area because of our hot summers. There are many types of tulips of course so any of the bulbs you see for sale now could be planted in a large container with drainage holes. And if you see a sale, you can’t go wrong!

Photo of China Town courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a Newsletter for DC Metro Area Gardeners

Apricot Giant Tulip

Enter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a free monthly newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Each issue lists 50 to 100 local gardening events, lectures, and workshops; recently published gardening books; and articles and tips specific to this immediate area. Subscribers have a chance to win a gardening product or plant every month.

For the November 2019 issue, we are doing something a little different for the giveaway. Instead of having one subscriber win one product, we are going to have five possible winners. Each person can receive 100 tulip bulbs. We have collaborated with Dutch Grown to give away a total of 500 tulips — five winners will get 100 of one variety. Winners cannot pick which variety, but it will be 100 of Apricot Giant, or Jumbo Cherry, or Strawberry Fields Collection, or Rainbow Parrot, or Apricot Parrot.

Rainbow Parrot Tulip

Established in 1882, Dutch Grown has been shipping and selling spring blooming bulbs from their family farm in Holland to growers in the United States. They launched their website in 2001 and in 2007 they were able to set up their online shop.  Initially only wholesale quantities were available for purchase online but they were able to provide retail prices by opening a warehouse in West Chester, PA. They ship bulbs from Holland to the warehouse in Pennsylvania and from this site they can deliver retail orders to gardeners and home owners. Their website has a blog, a question submission form, a bulb calculator, a zone finder, and several videos.

So if you are not a subscriber, subscribe now to Pegplant’s Post for a chance to win 100 bulbs. Read the November newsletter for details. All photos courtesy of Dutch Grown.

Apricot Parrot Tulip

Now Is The Time For All Gardeners To Plant Spring Blooming Bulbs!




Now is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs! Chances are you will see a wide variety of bulbs at your local garden center but how to choose?

For those of you who are troubled by deer and rodents, try daffodils (Narcissus), snowflakes (Leucojum), and snowdrops (Galanthus). Members of the Amaryllis family, these bulbs contain a bitter poisonous chemical that mammals will not eat. In our Washington DC area, these are the easiest to grow: they are tough plants that will bloom year after year, untouched by deer and squirrels. Other bulbs that deer don’t favor (but may take an interest if food is scarce) are species of Fritillaria, blue squill (Scilla), glory of the snow (Chionodoxa), starflower (Ipheion), winter aconite (Eranthis), and camassia (Camassia).



Tulips are beautiful and popular: flowers are deer candy and bulbs are squirrel food. Tulips have a reputation for being short lived and misplaced but one trick to prolong their life is to buy hybrid Darwin tulips and plant them about10 inches deep, deeper than recommended, to ensure adequate insulation and protection from squirrels. Still, deer have been known to nosh on the flowers at night, leaving green stalks and frustrated gardeners in the morning.

Another factor to consider is the sunlight and soil moisture. Most bulbs need to be planted in a well-drained area with full sun. There are “woodsy” types that tolerate some shade and moist soil such as snowdrops, winter aconite, Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides), squill, and glory of the snow. Usually the smaller bulbs can tolerate the shade under a deciduous tree in early spring before the tree leafs out.

Cost is also a factor. You want the bulb to be as big (for its particular type) as possible so don’t settle for bargain basement deals, get high quality, healthy bulbs. That being said, spring blooming bulbs always look better in groups or masses so count on buying a bunch of high quality, healthy bulbs, not just one.



Larger bulbs need more space between them than small bulbs so allow about 5 inches between large bulbs and two to three inches between smaller bulbs. The rule of thumb is to plant down 2 to 3 times the width of the bulb so if a bulb is 2 inches wide, plant so the base of bulb is 4-6 inches below the soil line (with the exception of the Darwin tulips as mentioned above).  With something like a daffodil, which has a tear drop shape, it is easy to find the nose which is planted upward. Look for a smaller pointier top and a wider base to figure out which end is up but if you can’t tell at all, plant it sideways and it will sort itself out.

Once you have bought your bulbs, simply dig, drop, and cover with soil. After planting, water well. In our area, the best time to plant is October and November, when the soil temperature is cooler but not frozen. The roots need time to get established before the soil freezes. It is possible to plant later but not after the soil has frozen and the later one plants, the less likely the plant will become established enough to withstand winter.  There is no need to fertilize but keep track of what you planted where you planted so you don’t accidently dig them up in the spring when you start to plant the cool season annuals such as pansies.