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Planting tulips in winter, try containers

I have a bag of tulip bulbs from last fall that I never got around to planting. Is it too late? They’ve been in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and some of them have started to sprout in the bag.

Ideally, of course, tulip bulbs should have been planted last fall, at the very latest by early winter. But even at this late date, those bulbs would probably be happier in soil than in the bag. Placing them in the fridge is a good idea; tulips need time to chill before they start to grow in spring (which is why you should plant them in the fall).

Since you’ve got nothing to lose, why not try experimenting, planting the bulbs in a pot? Gardener Elizabeth Licata, writing for Fine Gardening magazine, suggests this technique:

For the best visual impact, select a container with an outside diameter of at least 18 inches that is at least 15 inches tall. Fill the container about two-thirds with lightweight potting mix, and place the bulbs (pointed end up) close together in a tight circular pattern. Plant the bulbs closely, almost touching, at the depth they would be planted in the ground, generally about twice the height of the bulb. Cover them with soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top, and water the pot.

If squirrels or other animals dig in the pots, some kind of wire grid – such as the circular type made to support peonies – should dissuade them. Cover the wire with a thin layer of soil; when the foliage begins to peek through the soil, they will grow through the open grid.

If the bulbs grow and bloom, all those tulips clustered in the pot will be a cheerful sight. Once the blooms fade, you can transplant the bulbs into the ground, but tulip bulbs are not always reliable from year to year. If the late-planting experiment works and they bloom this year, though, they will have had at least one good season.

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One Response

  1. I’ve planted tulips in late January before, and they’ve been fine. Good idea to chill them!

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