Layered Bulb Planting in Pots
I call it layered bulb planting but some call this “lasagna planting”.
It’s easy to see why. Planting spring flowering bulbs in layers one on top of the other really does extend the flowering season!
You could do layered bulb planting in the border but where this is most effective is when you plant layers of different varieties of flower bulbs in pots.
Which bulbs to use
To start with choose bulb varieties that flower at different times.
Snowdrops and snow crocus [often called ‘species’ crocus] will be first to bloom.
Tulips will be last.
Then how you fill in the middle period of flowering depends a lot on personal taste.
I like to have a couple of varieties of daffodils; one really early blooming such as ‘Tete a Tete’, ‘February Gold’ or ‘Jet Fire’ and one later like ‘Holly Berry’ or ‘Fortune’.
Blue always looks good with yellow and so I use grape hyacinths which incidentally are inclined to spread everywhere if planted in the border. They are also nice and short.
Colour on top
Your layered planting can all be topped off with a few winter flowering pansies or violas so that you have immediate and lasting colour. They will bloom until the first bulbs start to bloom in late January and will continue to bloom with the bulbs too.
If you prefer a change from pansies then the miniature cyclamen are a perfect substitute and have often gone past their best by mid-January which is when the bulb show begins!
How to do it
Buy bulbs that are firm and of the largest size that you can get. Larger bulbs really do produce more flowers.
Having chosen your bulbs you are ready to start planting.
Use a good sized container. A pot of at least 30 cm diameter or 15 litre volume is good.
You will need potting compost to fill your pot but the actual type of this compost is perhaps less important than it would be for other plants. The reason for this is that your plants have almost all the nutrients they need stored inside them and they even have the embryo of the flowers too!
This is why I recommend buying large bulbs since the smaller bulbs may be blind and only produce leaves. A bonus with those really top size bulbs is they often have more than one flower in each bulb and so that substantially increases the display.
Let’s get started
Start by adding about 5-7 cm of compost to the bottom of the pot.
Then space out your tallest tulip bulbs so that they are evenly spaced but so that bulbs do not touch.
Avoiding bulbs touching is important for each variety as this sometimes leads to rotting.
Incidentally, it helps but is not vital that your bulbs are planted with the tip uppermost. Bulbs are incredibly forgiving and will right themselves as they grow.
When your first layer is in place, cover those bulbs with more compost.
You are now ready to add the next variety to your layered bulb planting.
This might be that late flowering daffodil I suggested. Don’t worry if you can’t get that actually variety but just choose one that is late flowering and has strong flower stems.
With tall tulips near the bottom, tall daffodils next you are ready to plant shorter tulips. Plant one of the many dwarf varieties such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Giuseppe Verdi’ or the multi-headed ‘Toronto’.
Cover these again with compost – think layers of pasta as in lasagna – and then add the next layer of bulbs.
This time add the grape hyacinths interspersed with those short early flowering crocus.
The last bulb layer to add is then the snowdrops which in fact will be the first to give you your spring bulb display!
A fight to the top?
The actually order that you plant each variety is dictated by the optimum planting depth for each variety. It’s not the time of year in which it will bloom!
So with that in mind plant the biggest bulbs nearest to the bottom of the pot so that they eventually have most compost on top of them.
The smallest bulbs like snowdrops, crocus and grape hyacinths need the least of covering.
If you are concerned that these bulbs are on top of those below, again don’t worry because bulbs will push their flowers up wherever there is a space!
Finally pop in those winter flowering pansies, violas or miniature cyclamen and fill any voids with potting compost to just below the rim of the pot.
That’s all there is to layered bulb planting!
Choose a prominent place such as on the doorstep to display your layered bulb container.
Don’t forget to give the whole thing a good watering in!
This way you will have a great show there but also a long blooming show too!
If you want to naturalise bulbs read my blog on it here
If you’re interested in growing indoor bulbs such as Amaryllis read this
I visited a specialist British bulb grower and supplier called Broadleigh Gardens. Read about my visit here.
I also visited Keukenhof Gardens in Holland to see sensational bulb displays there.
Finally, and for those who love snowdrops, here’s a blog on a West Country garden with masses!