For a long-lasting display of spring blooms, layer bulbs in large pots and containers to create a bulb lasagne. This is a great fall gardening project and will set your garden or patio up for spring color. DIY video included.
Though you may well have plans to plant bulbs in your flower beds and lawn, think about putting some in pots too. They look stunning in bloom and can also cheer you up on a cold March day. In planters, bulbs can be crowded in and layered and create displays that are more impressive than ones in the garden. The technique is called a bulb lasagne, and you create it much in the way that you layer the food dish. You can get a lot more flowers in a small space this way, and create beautiful, low-maintenance displays from late winter to late spring.
For me, the first of the year’s flowers always emerge from planters next to the front door. They never fail to put a smile on my face even though the days are still dark and are a reminder that warmer days are on the way. Early February can be a low point of the year and a bright display of flowers can make you feel more energetic and positive.
A bulb lasagne will give you waves of spring flowers
The idea behind layering bulbs to create a bulb lasagne is that different flowers can be planted at different depths in a container. As they grow, they gently push past one another on the way up and bloom in procession. Choose your flowering bulbs wisely, and your single container can bloom with snowdrops and crocus as early as February. Those delicate blossoms can be followed by daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips and bloom until late May.
You can source inexpensive bulbs at many garden centers, or even at supermarkets. For higher quality bulbs and a wider range of types, colors, and shapes, order through a reputable bulb nursery or distributor. In Britain, the go-to companies for bulbs are Sarah Raven or Peter Nyssen, and in the United States, it’s probably Floret Flowers and other small nurseries. Here are some of my picks for flowers to plant in your bulb lasagne.
- Dwarf irises
- Grape hyacinths
Bulb lasagne materials
To create a bulb lasagne you’ll need a few materials, aside from your bulbs.
- A pot around 1-1.5′ in diameter and 15″ deep. Ensure that it has drainage holes at the bottom.
- Free-draining compost. For the DIY version, mix one-part perlite with two parts potting mix/compost
- Broken pot shards, shale stone, or gravel for drainage
- Gravel or horticultural grit for finishing the top
Fill the pot with your drainage materials
The video above shares how I’ve planted my Belfast sink with two layers of bulbs. It’s a bright and beautiful planting that I’ve allowed to bloom a second time this spring but will begin the process of replanting it this autumn. If you’re ready to go with your materials and bulbs, start by filling the bottom of your pot with broken pots or about an inch of gravel. This layer will help keep the soil above it in place and well-drained. In other words, it helps keeps your bulbs from drowning in the pot and the planting material from running out of the drainage hole.
Plant the deepest bulbs
Add a layer of compost over the drainage materials about three inches deep. Next, layer on the bulbs that need the deepest planting space — the bulb packet will tell you just how deep they should be and they’re usually relatively large. Space them out, no bulbs should be touching, and remember that the pointy ends of the bulbs are the tops. Sometimes your bulbs will already be sprouting and that will let you know how to place them.
After they’re laid out how you like, cover the bulbs with another layer of compost. The compost can just cover the tops but how deep you cover them is dependent on how deep the next layer of bulbs should be in the pot. Refer to your own bulbs for guidance on how deep this layer should be.
Plant the second level of bulbs
Next layer on bulbs that need less planting depth, and try to space them out so that they don’t sit directly on top of the bulbs below. You can see in the photo above that a couple of the hyacinth bulbs from underneath are just peeking through the compost. When your second layer of bulbs is spaced out, cover them with another layer of compost. Add a third layer of bulbs on top of that, then cover with more compost. You could even add a fourth and fifth layer if you wish.
Protect your pot’s soil with a layer of grit
Finish the top of the container with a layer of fine gravel or grit about 1/4″ to 1/2″ in depth. This last layer serves several purposes: it keeps the container from drying out, it helps keep soil from eroding out, it stops weeds from taking root, and it also looks nice. The bulbs below will be able to push their way through without any issue at all. When you’re layering the grit or gravel on top, make sure to leave around 1/2″ of space between it and the top of the pot.
Waiting for your bulb lasagne to bloom
For the autumn, and winter months, your container will look unexciting. That’s why I tend to move it to a place that’s out of sight. If you live in a place with cold and snowy winters, consider placing it in a greenhouse or polytunnel over the winter. Bulbs are pretty hardy but being above ground gives them less protection from cold, and they might not survive otherwise. Since we have very mild winters here, I leave my containers outside year-round.
In late January I’ll take the container out of hiding and set it someplace I’ll walk past daily. It’s such a delight to see the first succulent green leaves popping through the gravel! It’s a sure sign that spring is on its way. The first to come up are usually crocus and snowdrops, then anemones, daffodils, and finally tulips. Consider how each of the flower colors will look together when choosing bulbs since you’ll probably want to avoid garish combos.
How to care for your bulbs
During the time that your plants are growing, keep the compost moist by watering it every day. Bulbs are something that most choose to replace every year, especially in containers. That’s because each bulb produces offsets (babies) and the container can get overcrowded. An overcrowded container often leads to less, and less consistent, blooms.
If you want to keep the bulbs to replant elsewhere in the garden, just follow a few steps. As the flowers begin to go over, deadhead them but don’t cut any of the green foliage. The leaves need to soak up as much sun-energy as possible. In late spring your display will die off completely and it’s then that you can gently pull the brown leaves out. Set the pot somewhere until autumn when you should empty, organize, and replant the bulbs in the border or lawn. Then it’s planting the container up again with new bulbs for a lovely new display the following spring.