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Plant and Overwinter Spring Flowering Bulbs in Pots

With a little planning in the fall, you can have a gorgeous spring display to enjoy next spring. Here’s everything you need to know about overwintering and planting bulbs in pots now. 

flowering bulbs planted in fall that are blooming in the spring

Tulips and other bulbs may be the last thing on your mind at this time of year. However, if you take a little time now to plant a variety of spring-flowering bulbs in pots and planters, I bet you will be pleased as punch that you did when you get to enjoy containers filled with cheery tulips, irises, crocuses, muscari, and more. Keep reading and learn how to plant and overwinter spring flowering bulbs in pots this fall.

Fall is the Perfect Time to Prepare for Spring

Spring. It’s the absolute last thing on my mind when I’m enjoying my pumpkin spice latte and harvesting rose hips. But I have to say those years were I forget or forgo bulbs in the fall, I sure do regret it in the spring.

For those of us who live in climates where we have four distinct seasons, and one of them is cold and possibly snowy, spring means more than days getting longer and trees budding out. It’s a celebration and rebirth after a period of rest.

What better way to celebrate than with the vibrant colours of tulips, daffodils, Dutch irises, crocuses, and many more cheery flowers? Even better, you don’t need a huge garden to enjoy them, because bulbs are perfect for growing in pots.

Combining Flower Bulbs in pots
photo courtesy of

How to Plant Bulbs in Pots

Planting fall bulbs in containers is no different from planting them in the ground, other than that you can really pack in a bunch for a colorful display that can be moved around the garden next spring to fill in bloom voids. Just like with other blooms, you will still need proper drainage and depth to ensure they will bloom the next year.

Star with Soil

Start with clean, dry pots (see more below), and add in fresh container mix soil. You can purchase a soil mix formulated with the appropriate water holding, drainage, and air space in from a garden center, or make your own.

Add Soil to a container garden for spring bulbs
photo courtesy of

DIY Potting Soil

There are a lot of potting soils you can purchase commercially, but I almost always make my own these days. There are a few reasons why. First of all, I find it to work the best for my flowers. Secondly, I have made a commitment to reduce my usage of things with peat in the ingredients (read here about why).

Plus, making this peat-free potting soil mix is very easy and economical.

Container Potting Soil Mix Recipe (Peat-Free)

Simply mix all the ingredients in a wheelbarrow or bucket and transfer to the pot. As is the case with all dry potting soil products and mixing ingredients, wet the materials slightly to reduce dust and avoid inhalation of dry particles.

Bulb Planting Sign
photo courtesy of

Layering Spring-Flowering Bulbs in Pots

When planting bulbs, you can get quite creative in planning how they will bloom throughout the spring. Think about incorporating colour patterns with two or three complementary hues. Or staggering flowering times with early, mid, and late season bloomers.

Playing with different heights to add more interest. Here is how to layer bulbs in your container garden.

Thank you to for sharing these images with me!

Tulip Bulbs in a Pot

Plant the bulbs that require the greatest depth first, and evenly space them, root side down, into a layer of soil like the tulips shown.
Daffodil Bulbs in a Pot

Cover the bulbs with soil and add another layer of bulbs planted root side down like these daffodils.
Crocus Bulbs in a Pot

Plant another layer as the first two with soil in between like these crocuses.

Snowdrop Bulbs in a Pot

Keep planting bulbs until the smallest, shallowest depth bulbs are planted.

A Variety of Bulbs Growing in a Layered Pot Garden

In the spring, the bulbs will grow from the top layers first, while the ones below make their way up through the soil.

The Best Containers for Growing Bulbs in Pots

For practicality, choose containers that will overwinter in your area. Glazed ceramic, resin, or plastic pots have good longevity and protect plants in the winter. Unglazed terracotta will absorb moisture, freeze, and crack, so it is best to store those for mild weather use only.

There are also great all-weather containers like these with double-walled construction that insulates the soil and comes with a 10-year warranty. These are certain to make it through many winters.

Choose pots that are large enough to hold the soil needed to chill the bulbs without damaging them. The larger the pot also means you can add a lot more bulbs which will give an impressive spring display. Half wine or whiskey barrels make wonderful bulb planters.

Combining Flower Bulbs in Container Gardens
photo courtesy of

Choose Containers with Drainage

Be sure the container has good drainage. Self-watering containers are not a good choice for overwintering in rainy or cold areas where water collected in the storage container can freeze and damage the pot or the bulbs.

Mixed fall bulb planter recipe - tulips and grape hyacinths

Designing the Container for Fall and Winter Dormancy

Bulb Container with Cool Season Annuals Planted on Top
photo courtesy of

After the bulbs are planted, the container will look pretty boring with just bare soil up above! Never fear, this is the perfect place for cool-season annuals like pansies, ornamental kale, and sedum.

Or you can skip the live plants altogether and use the planter as the base for a gorgeous fresh evergreen display that will take you through the holidays and into the new year.

Designing winter and holiday planters is less gardening and more floral design, as instead of planting roots, you will arrange cut branches from plants into the soil for a winter arrangement. The bulbs will stay tucked in the soil while you enjoy the decorations all winter. When spring arrives, simply remove and compost the branches before the bulbs emerge.

Planter ornaments for the holidays

More Bulbs for Your Garden


  1. I have a window box container.. is that deep enough to plant my bulbs over winter for a spring blooming?

  2. How many layers of bulbs can be planted? I do have a heavy glazed ceramic pot.
    Also, living in zone 6, outdoor plants are typically irrigated if not below freezing, should fall bulbs be watered in fall/winter or just early spring?

  3. How often should the potted layered bulbs stored in a cold garage, be watered? Trying tulips, muscari and anemone!

  4. I live in Laval, Quebec which is in zone 4. Can I plant some bulbs in containers
    and leave them outside all winter?

  5. I am in zone 4, and want to put crocosmia in pots, and then bury the pots in my flower beds, so that I can dig up the pots and move them to an unheated garage for winter. This procedure has worked for me with some larger, single plants. I have started my crocosmia in pots, and they are now getting tall. Any recommendations on how many bulbs to put in a six inch pot, for a nice look in the summer? All advice gratefully received

    • Hi Bonnie,
      Really pack them in, I would probably put 20 bulbs together in a pot because crocosmia does so much better when the bulbs and stems are all crowded together growing as a clump. It gives the whole thing a lot more sturdiness. That’s how they naturalize in the garden so it makes sense to plant them that way as well. You will have to dig up a chunk of them annually, but if the pot is buried, they should be fine.


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