A couple of hours spent planting bulbs in pots in autumn means you’ll enjoy blooms for months to come in spring.
You can pot up different bulbs in different pots, which means you can rotate the display, bringing those at their peak to the fore. Alternatively, layer bulbs in pots for maximum impact and a continuous succession of flowers – watch our video guide to layering bulbs in pots.
We asked Kevin Smith, deputy editor of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, to recommend 10 of his favourite spring bulbs.
Crocus tommasianus ‘Barr’s Purple’
Kevin grew the Crocus tommasianus ‘Barr’s Purple’ in this very picture – growing them in small pots shows them off perfectly.
Crocus tommasianus ‘Barr’s Purple’ flowering in small pots
Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’
Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ is a cultivar of Narcissus bulbocodium, often referred to as the hoop petticoat daffodil. It reaches just 20cm, making it perfect for pots.
A delicate hoop petticoat daffodil – Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’
Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is one of the most popular daffodils for containers – it’s small but perfectly formed, with small yellow trumpets. If you didn’t get around to planting bulbs in autumn, plants are widely available in garden centres in spring.
A display of Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Woodstock’
‘Woodstock’ is one of the most beautiful hyacinths you can grow, with unusual, rich-purple blooms. It works beautifully in pots but also looks good in a spring border.
Rich purple blooms of hyacinth ‘Woodstock’
Tulipa ‘West Point’
Kevin recommended Tulip ‘West Point’ to magazine readers in 2015 and grew them himself, too. ‘They worked really well and made a big impact,’ he says. They also make an unusual addition to a border.
Tulip ‘West Point’ with its sharply pointed yellow petals
Snowdrops are among the earliest bulbs to flower in late winter. Kevin usually buys them in bud at the garden centre in late winter and pots them up for an instant display.
A swathe of snowdrops Galanthus nivalis
Grape hyacinths, including Kevin’s favourite variety Muscari armeniacum, have brilliant blue flowers in spring and are a doddle to grow. They are very popular with pollinators, too.
Bright-blue blooms of grape hyacinth Muscari armeniacum
Iris reticulata ‘Edward’
Another of Kevin’s tried-and-tested favourites, Iris reticulata ‘Edward’, brings welcome colour in late winter and early spring. Growing in pots means you can appreciate the deep violet flowers, splashed with yellow.
Deep-violet and gold-splashed flowers of Iris reticulata ‘Edward’
Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva’
If you don’t want to venture into the garden in the depths of winter, you can enjoy forced blooms indoors. Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva’ is one of the best you can grow, with white blooms and heavenly scent. Discover nine spring bulbs to force in autumn.
White blooms of Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva’
Species tulips may be small, but they pack a punch. Tulipa humilis looks stunning in pots, where the delicate blooms can be appreciated, but they are also excellent for borders and naturalising in grass – they will come back year after year.
Delicate small blooms of Tulipa humilis, with streaky-pink, pointed petals
Encourage next year’s blooms
After the blooms have faded, move the pots out of sight, and give the bulbs a liquid feed. Allow the foliage to die back naturally. Alternatively, plant in the garden for blooms next year.