It’s hard to believe when summer comes to an end that it’s already time to start planting bulbs for spring bloom. All of our favorite bulbs – such as hyacinths, tulips, and of course, that symbol of spring itself, the daffodil – are now available in garden centers and nurseries.
I suppose the daffodil would have to be my favorite because of its simple beauty and reliable nature. You can just about always depend on it to return each spring. And while I can’t imaging my garden without those bright blooms, I know that once the flowers fade I need to leave the remaining foliage in place for almost six weeks so the bulb can be recharged to bloom again next year.
Though it’s not hard to disguise their long green leaves with other emerging plants, there is a way to enjoy the flowers without the problem of the remaining foliage. All you have to do is plant the bulbs in nursery pots and then bury them in the garden. Once the blooms fade, just lift the pots and set them aside.
This project is easy to do in a weekend. Start by finding an area where you’d like to enjoy a spring bulb garden. I’m always hungry for some early color in my vegetable garden, so my raised beds were ideal, but you may have an area near your front door or in an established flower bed. The best locations are well-drained soil with full sun, but even partial shade will do. Avoid wet, marshy spots.
Next, collect several plastic nursery pots. They don’t have to be the same size. I use containers that range from 6 to 8 inches in diameter and from 5 to 8 inches deep. Then pick out the daffodils you want to use. This may be the hardest part because there are so many choices.
While daffodils will grow in most areas of the country, some varieties perform better than others depending on the climate. With more than 13,000 hybrids to choose from, you’ll want to check with your local garden center or other gardeners to find the bulbs best suited for your area. You’ll find that daffodils have been developed to bloom in early, mid or late season, so you can extend the length of the display by choosing from each category.
Prepare the area by loosening the soil with a shovel. Then put about an inch of loose garden soil in the bottom of the containers, and place the bulbs shoulder to shoulder, pointed tip up. Add another inch of soil, and slip in a few more bulbs. Layering bulbs in each container gives you a bouquet. Fill the containers to the top with more soil. If you like, add a tag identifying the varieties. Next spring, you can note which ones performed the best.
Once all the pots are filled, water well. Then dig a hole in the bed, deep enough so the pot’s lip sits about an inch below the surface of the soil. Place the containers in the ground and fill in more soil around them. Lightly tamp down the area.
In my mid-South garden, winters are relatively mild, so I like to over-plant my bulb beds with violas and pansies. These plants thrive in low light and cool temperatures and provide a spot of color through the cold months. Or, you can add these plants after the daffodils begin to emerge in spring. Both violas and pansies can survive a frost and rebound in bright color.
Now sit back and dream of the beautiful display you’ll enjoy next spring. An added bonus of this potted-bulb method is that once the flowers are up, you can lift a container from the bed and bring it inside to enjoy. Simply slip the plastic container into a more decorative pot, add a few more pansies, and cover the top in sheet moss. It’s a quick and easy way to enjoy your flowers a second time as a spring centerpiece.
My Daffodil Picks:
For potting success, try these varied cultivars. Just make sure that you plant your bulbs before the ground freezes in the North, and after it cools down from summer in the South. Check a zone map to see which of these daffodils is best suited for your garden.
‘Topolino’ – white petals with a creamy yellow trumpet; it is dwarf in size and resembles the little trumpet naturalized throughout the Southeast; great for rock gardens, forced in pots, and in patio containers; 8 to 10 inches tall; early to midseason; zones 4 – 8.
‘Jenny’ – a small charmer that opens white and yellow but matures to a clear white; 10 to 12 inches tall; midseason; zones 3 – 8
‘Pipit’ – two to three luminous yellow flowers per stem, but the cup quickly turns white; superb garden perennial and show winner; American bred; 14 to 16 inches tall; midseason; zones 4 – 9.
‘Lemon Drop’ – two to three large, teardrop-shaped flowers per stem standing with reverence in the garden as it bows its two-toned head; American bred; 12 to 14 inches tall; midseason; zones 4 – 9.
‘Jack Snipe’ – cyclamineus miniature with a white perianth and yellow trumpet, great for rock gardens; 12 inches tall; early; zones 3 – 8.
‘Quail’ – long-lasting floriferous American-bred selection with deep bronze-yellow, multiple flowers; 12 to 13 inches tall; midseason; zones 5 – 9.