Guide to planting bulbs

Put in now, tulips and other bulbs can create a grand color show next spring ― in the ground or in pots

Guide to planting bulbs

Plant (or chill) tulip bulbs now for a riot of color come spring.

Claire Curran

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To plant spring-flowering bulbs is to witness a miraculous transformation. Think about it: You go to the nursery in fall, pluck homely lumps from the bins, drop them into brown paper bags. The glossy color photos above the bins promise beautiful spring blooms in a rainbow of hues ― elegant, cup-shaped tulips in hot pink and orange, soft pink and lavender; cheerful yellow daffodils; voluptuous blue hyacinths. Still, it's difficult to imagine these hard, brown things with bristly bottoms pushing out such incredible blooms.

But plant them well, either by type en masse or with other bulbs, and they'll surprise you. Plant them in large beds, as shown at left, or in smaller containers. Either way, the results are sure to be spectacular come spring.

Planting in a pot

In fall, after everything is planted, poke grape hyacinth bulbs into the spaces between heather and pansies. In April, 'Princess Irene' tulips bloom for three to four weeks. The chartreuse flowers behind are Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea'.

Tina Dixon, of Plants à la Cart in Bothell, Washington, and Marsha Davis-Thomsen of Seattle are not easily discouraged by short days, rain, and persistently chilly weather. Each fall, just when everyone else in the Northwest is giving up on gardening for the season, the two designers whip up winter-into-spring plantings in containers.


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