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Perfectly Potted Tulips and Hyacinths
by Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center
March 23, 2003

If you forgot to plant your tulips last fall, or just can’t wait for the calendar to roll around to spring, do what many professional designers do. Buy pre-potted bulbs at the garden center, florist shop or other retailer and use them indoors as decorative plants or outdoors for an instant splash of early spring color.

Potted tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other spring flowers are abundant and affordable this time of year. Choose young potted bulb flowers with buds that are formed but not fully opened. You’ll enjoy weeks of enjoyment as the stems and flowers grow and mature.

What to Look For

For the longest bloom time (and most fun), select potted bulbs with shoots already “up” with fully formed buds that are not yet flowering, suggests Frans Roozen, technical director of the International Flower Bulb Center in Hillegom, Holland. “Half the fun is watching the flowers grow and get colorful.

A pot of young tulips or hyacinths displayed indoors, for example, could grow up and bloom over a period of weeks. Outside, where the spring weather is still cool, they will grow for a month or even more.

Top candidates include: tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, plus little Iris reticulata and dwarf Narcissi, Anemone blanda, Muscari and crocuses. All are widely available and of best quality in the market this time of year.

Home Décor: Using Potted Bulbs Indoors:

Potted bulbs can be enjoyed in their plastic or terra cotta nursery pot, but look even better if repotted or double-potted into a decorative container.

To repot, gently tap out the nursery pot contents (keeping bulbs and soil intact) and repot in one of your own favorite containers (your pot must have a drainage hole and saucer to collect draining water).

To double-pot, just lower the existing potted plant “as is” into a slightly larger, prettier container. You can use a nice container with no drainage hole (often called a cachepot) – or a slightly larger pot with a drainage hole and saucer. Water to keep soil moist but not soggy.

Garden Accents: Using Potted Bulbs Outdoors

If outdoor temperatures are still flirting with freezing in your area, it’s a good idea to acclimate the potted bulbs by placing them in an unheated, but protected spot for a few days to toughen them up before planting outdoors.

After planting, acclimated forced bulbs will be oblivious to cold and even sudden snowstorms. Bulb plants are tough customers, whether fall-planted or forced and acclimated for spring planting.

In most cases, it’s best to remove the bulbs from their little plastic nursery pots. Replant the individual plants as you would annuals, into rich well drained soil. Water well.

If you choose to plant in outdoor containers, the larger the containers the better to insulate the bulbs from freezing.

Grouping pots of one color together can make a bold statement. Mixing complementary, or even contrasting, colors together can make another statement entirely. Either way is fun. Use nursery pots to inject “instant color” to fill in the blanks of your spring garden. And, don’t forget fragrance. Color is only part of the spring story. Potted hyacinths not only look great, they smell great too. Plant them outdoors in or near entryways to give an olfactory treat for those coming or going.

Surprise someone. When visiting friends or family, bring along a pot or two of hyacinths or tulips and a trowel. In advance of announcing your arrival, find a needy plot of earth near the front door and tuck the colorful little fellows in. Leave a note with instructions to “water well.” Your work is done, but the show – and the joy your gift begets – has only just begun!

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