“I tried planting bulbs (crocus, daffodils, tulips, and iris) in pots this year. They were well mulched and gathered in a warmer area of the garden near the house. Nothing came up! After investigating, it appears they became too wet and froze. The pots have great drainage. Any suggestions for next year will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!” Question from Jane of Bloomington, Illinois
Answer: Bulbs are adapted somewhat to freezing and thawing, but if they get too wet, they are prone to rotting, especially when temperatures are mild in fall and spring. There are several things that you can do to protect them from excess winter water. The easiest way is to simply store the pots under a patio or protective eave. You can also add more amendments, like Black Gold Perlite, to encourage faster drainage, but overhead cover gives one a bit more control. On the flip side, there is always a chance that they may become too dry under cover, so intermittent watering from fall to spring is recommended.
It is also advisable to protect your tulip and crocus bulbs/corms from rodents that enjoy munching on them in the winter months when food is scarce. Applying some repellent granules around the bulbs at planting time will help. From there, I recommend that you read Mike Darcy’s excellent article about creating layered bulb pots in the fall (click here to read).
“Can spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips be planted in early spring in NJ?” Question from Glenn of Parsippany, New Jersey
Answer: You can only plant potted bulbs that have emerged and are flowering in spring. No bulbs should be dormant by spring. If you happen to have some live tulip or daffodil bulbs that have yet to fully grow and flower, you can try planting them in spring, but do not expect them to flower properly for at least a year. Be sure to plant them 6 inches down and feed them with a bulb fertilizer at planting time. The addition of Black Gold Garden Compost Blend also helps.
“I just planted my daffodils. Now, when will they start to come up, in the spring? Also, can I just leave them in the ground so that they will come up again the following year?” Question from Bev of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Answer: It seems like a question that answers itself, but it is not. Truly, it depends. There are different daffodils that emerge and flower at different times in the spring season. So, the time that your daffodils will emerge depends on the varieties that you planted. (Always make note of your plant’s names, if they are given. They can provide a lot of needed information.)
Daffodil Bloom Times
Daffodils may emerge in early spring (February to March), early to mid-spring (March to April), mid-spring (April), mid-to-late-spring (April-May), or late-spring (May). The short, golden ‘February Gold‘ is an early spring daffodil that was first introduced in 1923; a good early to mid-spring variety is ‘Barrett Browning‘ with its ivory petals and small, dark-orange cups; lots of tiny cream and gold flowers cover the mid-spring bloomer ‘Minnow‘; ‘Ambergate‘ is a mid-to late-spring bloomer with tangerine and dark orange flowers; finally, ‘Sir Winston Churchill‘ is a fragrant, double-flowered daffodil that blooms late. And, if you plant all of these, you can happy sunny daffodils in your garden from February to May!
Daffodils are wonderfully hardy and naturalize over time. They are also very long-lived in the garden, which is why you commonly see them in big swaths around old homes. So, leave them in the ground. Once their greens tops start to turn brown in late spring, trim them back. The following spring, your daffodils should return in even greater numbers.
“Winter is not over, but we have had warm spells. Daffodils are already pushing up. Will another hard freeze kill them?” Question from Richard of Winston Salem, North Carolina
Answer: You need not worry. It is not uncommon to see blooming bulbs in the snow, daffodils included. That’s because most of these early bulbs are very tough and resilient to spring cold snaps. It would have to get into the teens or even single digits Fahrenheit to really do emerging spring bulbs serious damage. So, let them be and emerge in their own time. They will bloom and flower for you with no trouble.
“We moved to Jasper, TX from Jefferson City, MO and I am having trouble getting my favorite bulbs, daffodils, to grow. What suggestions might you have?” Question from Betsy of Jasper, Texas
Answer: You moved from a USDA Hardiness Zone 6 location to a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 location. Many daffodils will not grow well in Zone 8 because they need chillier winters to complete their flowering cycle. Thankfully, there are some that will grow very well in your region. Choose from this list of varieties, and you should have daffodil success! Many of these are Tazetta-type Narcissus.
Daffodil ‘Avalanche’: This fragrant daffodil produces clusters of ivory flowers with small yellow cups and blooms from early to mid spring.
Daffodil ‘Carlton’: Prolific golden yellow flowers are produced by this daffodil in early spring
Daffodil ‘Erlicheer’: This unique variety produces fully double flowers of ivory and palest yellow in early to mid spring.
Daffodil ‘Falconette’: This early spring bloomer bears fantastic clusters of yellow blooms with dark-orange coronas.
There’s something magical about a pot of spring flowers on the front step, porch, patio, or balcony. The colors, the fragrance, and just the act of getting our hands in the soil nurtures us gardeners as we reconnect with nature and start the new growing season.
Spring Container Plants
It used to be that pansies and violas were the only annuals available for spring pots, but today the choices are nearly endless. The options for cool-season annuals have exploded beyond pansies, with colorful bloomers like snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), nemesia (Nemesia hybrids), stocks (Matthiola incana), and bedding pinks (Dianthus hybrids) to join the seasonal selections. Spring-ready perennial, shrubs, trees, and bulbs of various types are now available, to include primroses (Primula hybrids), lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.) miniature roses, and ranunculus (Ranunculus hybrids) as well as forced daffodils, tulips, crocus, grape hyacinths, and hyacinths. Look for these plants at independent garden centers, big box stores, nurseries, and even the local grocery store.
Even with so many new options available, I cannot resist filling my spring pots with tried-and-true pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) and violas (Viola cornuta hybrids). There are differences between the two, even though they are both related. Pansy flowers are larger, about the size of a 50-cent coin, while viola flowers are smaller, more the size of a quarter, and more numerous. Pansy blooms feature that familiar blotched face with whisker-like markings; viola flowers have similar markings. Each is fragrant. Pansies look and bloom best when their spent flowers are removed, a practice called deadheading. Violas do not need to be deadheaded and continue to bloom well into summer for longer than pansies.
Pansies and violas look great in just about any mixed container. This year, I mixed mine with forced daffodils and hyacinths, stocks, ranunculus, and cut pussywillow branches. Before compiling my containers, I selected and prepared my containers and mix for good looks and performance.
Spring Container Preparation
For a spring planting, use any large container with good drainage that’s made of a material able to withstand spring’s temperature swings. Use an outdoor container, one you stowed away for the season or bought new. If the soil is frozen in your outdoor containers, move them to a heated space for a couple of days to allow them to thaw.
Pots already filled with mix should have the top third removed and replaced with fresh, high-quality mix, such as Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix or Black Gold® Cocoblend Potting Mix, which are formulated for container gardening. If starting with empty pots, fill them to the top, leaving several inches of top space for planting and watering.
Black Gold potting mixes are lightweight, friable, and specially blended to promote good drainage and root development. This year I used Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix, which has the benefit of added fertilizer to feed plants for up to 6 months. Always choose good potting mix for containers rather than soil from the garden, which is dense, heavy, and may have insects or diseases that will damage plants in a container.
Then it’s time to choose your flowers. I pick plants with complementary bloom times and color suites, and I often nest moss around my spring plantings to make them look prettier.
Spring Plant Selection & Planting Tips
Choosing the best flowers at the garden center takes some know-how, as does planting for full effect. Here are eight smart tips I rely upon when preparing my spring container plantings:
When shopping for forced bulbs or spring flowers, select plants with flower buds that are still tight and just barely showing color. The tighter the buds, the longer they will flower.
If buying pansies, violas or snapdragons in 4- or 6-cell packs, plant two or three in one hole rather than individually. This ensures a nice mass of flowers and fuller look right away.
For an even fuller look, buy spring annuals in 4- or 6-inch pots. Each pot will have one large plant or three or four smaller ones. Plant each as one plant.
Dianthus, stocks, and ranunculus tend to be slightly larger plants sold in larger cells. Cluster a couple together for a greater mass, if desired.
Don’t worry too much about plant tags that say “full sun”, if your landscape is shady. Early in the season, most trees and shrubs have not leafed out, so there’s usually enough light for contained plantings.
Pick up birch branches in your yard or buy some at a garden center. Spray paint them spring colors, or a hue similar to the trim on your home, and add them to accent in your pot.
Buy (or cut your own) pussy willow branches to add height and texture in your pots. These are usually available seasonally at garden centers or florist’s shops. These will remain attractive until the buds have broken and dried out. (Sometimes the branches even root in the pot!)
Choose lightweight bags of potting mix with no bag tears or damage. An earlier manufacture date means fresher mix!
There’s something about miniature anything that draws kids, and every year my mini daffodils, ‘Minnow’, ‘Hawara’, and ‘Baby Moon’, just cry out to be picked by my children. They make the prettiest fairy bouquets and are easy-as-pie to grow, so this bulb-planting season I plan to add more!
What are Miniature Daffodils?
There are lots of daffodils and jonquils that are very tiny, but true miniatures are classified as having flowers smaller than 1.5 inches in diameter. (To learn more visit the American Daffodil Society website.) The cutest have wonderfully small flowers with even teenier coronas (central crowns). My standbys include the delicate ‘Minnow’, with its tiny gold corona and ivory petals, the nodding primrose-yellow ‘Hawara’ and nickel-sized ‘Baby Moon’, which is pure gold. All are easy to find and grow.
Miniature Daffodil Varieties
The fall bulb catalogs offer more of these delicate spring flowers. Must-haves include the golden ‘Mite’ with its reflexed petals and elongated corona and the sweet and unusual ‘New Baby’, which has a tiny bright yellow corona and ivory petals edged in yellow. The orange-cupped ‘Bittern’ is another fragrant, tiny beauty offered by the popular Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Those wanting to have lots of different minis all at once might consider a miniature daffodil mix, like the one offered by Eden Brothers, which consists of five different unnamed varieties—all of which are complementary and sweet.
Planting Miniature Daffodils
As with any other spring bulb, plant these daffodils in fall before the ground becomes too cold to work. Small flowering bulbs should be planted closer together, around three to four inches apart in clusters or sweeps, alongside other complimentary plants such as grape hyacinth, crocus or compact species tulips. Just like any other daffodil, there are varieties that bloom in early, mid, and late spring, so be aware of this when planning planting companions to ensure that pairings bloom together.
Before planting, work the soil and add fertile amendments as needed. OMRI-listedBlack Gold Garden Compost, with its rich blend of compost, bark, and Canadian Sphagnum peat moss, will help your bulbs quickly root and grow in spring. Plant each bulb five inches below the surface and fertilize with a food formulated for bulbs. Bulb fertilizer can be added as a light top-dressing when plants begin to bloom in spring.
When your flowers bloom in spring, it is nice to make tiny fairy arrangements in small, brightly colored vases. These little daffodils look beautiful alongside tiny blue scilla and fragrant grape hyacinth as well as small species tulips (the mid-season ‘Lilac Wonder’ is a favorite) and brightly colored violas. Choose any container, small bottles, vases or jars, and fill them up!
If you are like me, there’s always an element of surprise when you plant something new in fall for spring. It always seems like magic when they pop up from the ground and bloom perfectly as planned. Miniature daffodils offer an additional element of fun to the surprise, for you and any little ones in your life.