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Potted Flowering Bulbs

March 31, 2022


Will they Return?

After those bulbs finish flowering many wonder if it’s possible to place the plants in the soil so they will bloom next year. The short answer is yes, but some of these bulbs will return better than others.

Tulips and hyacinths, for example, always look their best the first spring after planting. In future years, you typically get fewer flowers that are also smaller in size. To ensure a good show of color every spring, it’s best to plant fresh bulbs each fall.


Planting In The Ground

  • Once the plant has stopped blooming, discontinue watering and allow the foliage to die back.
  • Once the foliage is dried and brown, remove it from the pot by gently tugging on the leaves until they break from the bulb and come out of the ground. (If the leaves do not pull away from the bulbs easily you haven’t waited quite long enough for the foliage to die. It is very important to not remove the foliage prematurely as it helps to put energy back in the bulbs for the next year’s blooms.)
  • Remove the bulbs from the dirt and dust them off. Check for any rotten or soft spots on bulbs. If these spots are visible on any bulbs, discard them. Allow them to dry out on a piece of paper in a cool, dry, and dark place (such as a cellar or basement), or plant them directly in the ground if the weather is suitable for planting.

Can I Keep Them In The Pot?

You may keep the bulbs in pots after flowering, but it is a good idea to introduce some new soil with all its nutrients and fertilize again.

Choose a sheltered location like a shed, basement, or unheated garage to store them for winter in the pot.

The soil should stay only slightly moist through the winter. Place bait for mice and voles, which will happily make a meal of your bulbs if they aren’t protected.

Once temperatures rise above freezing in the spring, take your potted bulbs out of storage and let them emerge naturally outdoors. Use pot feet if you are setting them on a hard surface to allow water to drain freely and prevent rot.


IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: This process of artificially chilling bulbs and then forcing them to bloom early takes quite a bit of energy from the bulb. Therefore, you may not see blooms for the next few springs. Be patient: once the bulb stores up enough energy, they’ll be beautiful once again!

When it comes to coming back for at least four years, the best bulbs are daffodils, hyacinths, muscari and lilies. Tulips are the least reliable, so don’t plant them in the most prominent part of your yard. Tulips often send up foliage in the second and third years, but they might not flower.

Storing Tulips

Tulip bulbs need cold storage each year in mild winter climates. This allows the bulbs to rest and develop flower buds. Storing the tulip bulb in a refrigerator at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit gives the bulbs a cold dormant period. Leave the bulbs in storage for at least eight weeks. Do not place the bulbs next to the fruit, because the fruit gives off ethylene gas. This gas kills the developing flower inside the tulip bulbs.

Planting Bulbs Guide

Planting Tulips

The best time to plant tulip bulbs is in the fall once the weather turns chilly. Choose a location with dry soil in full- to partial sun exposure. Tulips prefer the afternoon sun. Space the bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart. Dig the holes so that the top of the bulbs are 8 inches deep. Plant the bulbs with the pointy end up, and fill the holes with soil. The bulbs need 1 tablespoon of slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer or bulb food each at planting time to give the bulbs more energy to grow. Sprinkle the bulb food around each bulb, and water the area right away.

Good To Know

Early-blooming bulbs such as snowdrops, crocus, chionodoxa, scilla, and daffodils will flower year after year and multiply over time. These bulbs are reliably perennial and incredibly carefree. There’s no need to deadhead, fertilize or divide them unless they become overcrowded or you want to add them to other parts of your yard.

Hyacinths will usually bloom for several years, though the size of the flowers tends to gradually decline. Muscari and alliums will also return to bloom again if the soil is well-drained and stays relatively dry during summer and winter.

When tulips are planted in heavy soil that holds too much moisture, the bulbs have a tendency to split. If you have ever dug up a tulip bulb after it has bloomed, you may have seen this yourself. Once a tulip bulb has split into two or more sections, it no longer has enough energy to produce a full-size blossom. Some types of tulips are less prone to splitting and more likely to rebloom. These include most species tulips, Darwin hybrids, emperor tulips and some triumph tulips.