Growing Bulbs in Baskets
Instead of yanking down that hanging basket this fall and storing it away until next year, why not refresh it with winter annuals – and a few surprises for next spring?
Those would be bulbs!
Any why not? Those who painstakingly plant them in the ground by the hundreds have learned to add spring bulbs to container gardens as well (not as much of a stoop, maybe?). As with flower beds, annuals such as pansies, violas and ornamental vegetables can be under-planted with bulbs in containers as well, and that includes baskets. The added benefit of growing bulbs in baskets is that, unlike with other containers except for maybe a strawberry pot, you can plant the little suckers all around the edges of the basket for a lush, full look when the plants mature next spring.
Here’s what you will need:
- Large wire basket
- Coco liner or sphagnum moss
- Knife or scissors
- Soilless potting mix
- Bulb food
- Bulbs (daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, muscari)
- Winter-hardy annuals and other plants (pansies, violas, ornamental vegetables, cyclamen)
STEP 1: Decide where you plan to hang your basket. Most flowering annuals require at least six to eight hours of sunlight for optimum bloom. Opt for southern or western exposure if available to protect your plantings from harsh winter winds from the north and east, which can dry out plants and weaken them.
STEP 2: Choose the largest open wire basket can you find – at least 18 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep. Line the interior of the basket with a sheet of coco fiber or tuck sections of sphagnum moss into the sides, wetting it a little to make it more pliable.
STEP 3: If choosing a coco liner, use a knife or scissors to make slits (about one inch long) in the sides of the basket at varying levels around the perimeter. If using moss, it should be flexible enough for later poking in bulbs.
STEP 4: Fill the basket about halfway with potting soil. Choose a soilless mix which does not hold water as much as regular potting mixes. If the mix does not contain organic matter, mix is compost to give the plants an extra boost of nutrients.
STEP 5: Tuck bulbs in some of the openings, rounded end first. It may seem unlikely, but once they sprout in spring their shoots will naturally grow outward a bit and then upward, reaching for the light. Some of the best bulbs for this planting method are small-variety daffodils, crocuses and muscari (grape hyacinths). In other openings, plug in annuals such as pansies and violas as well as trailing plants like ivy.
STEP 6: Next, plant bulbs the traditional way in the center of the basket. Here, hyacinths and taller daffodils work particularly well. Cover the bulbs with 4 to 6 inches of soil (depending on the type of bulb and its depth requirements). Then sprinkle the soil with bone meal or a bulb fertilizer, such as Bulb Booster.
STEP 7: Finally, plant winter annuals on top – think of these as the icing on the layer cake you’re building! Think blue pansies as a foil for the yellow daffodils that will poke up through them. Or white violas paired with purple hyacinths. Depending on your climate, plants that are considered “houseplants,” such as colorful cyclamens, make excellent choices, especially if the basket is hung in a somewhat protected area. Be sure to give the container some varying textures by including foliage plants such as parsley, kale or hardy ferns.
STEP 8: Hang the basket, water when dry to the touch, and wait for spring to unfurl – layer by layer!