Image by Paul Stainthorp
By Heather Rhoades
Containers are not just for perennials and annuals. Bulbs, especially tulip bulbs, can make a spectacular focal point in your spring garden. But eventually the weather will start to get cold and you will need to decide what to do with the tulip bulbs in containers that you have. Overwintering your tulip bulbs in containers is one option you have and here is how you can do this successfully.
Planting Tulip Bulbs to Survive the Winter
If you plan from the start to keep your tulip bulbs in their container in the winter, then you can take steps when planting the tulip bulbs in containers to make sure they will survive the winter.
Drainage is extra important – In the winter, what kills hardy plants and bulbs more often than not is ice rather than the cold itself. Making sure that the drainage in the container is excellent and that water from melting snow or from routine watering does not get trapped in the container to freeze will help keep you tulip bulbs alive over the winter.
Fertilize well – While your tulips are growing and blooming during the spring, they will be storing energy to help them survive the winter. The more energy you can help them store, the more likely they are to survive. In containers, the bulbs will not have as much opportunity to seek out nutrients. You will be their only source to make sure they have enough.
Storing Tulip Bulbs in Containers
If you live in a zone where tulip bulbs do not need to be chilled indoors, you will need to store your tulip bulb containers. If you live in zone 6, you will need to move your tulip bulb containers to a sheltered area, such as near the foundation of your house. If you live in zone 5, you will need to store your tulip bulb container in a cool place out of the elements, such as a garage or a basement.
Even if you are in zone 6, you may want to consider storing your tulip bulb containers in the garage or basement to prevent poor drainage and ice from killing your tulip bulbs.
Care of Tulip Bulbs in the Winter
While your tulip bulbs will not need much water over the winter, they will need some. If your tulip bulbs are stored in a place where they will get snowed on (and then watered by melting snow) or there has been a lack of precipitation over the winter, you will need to occasionally water your tulip bulbs in containers. If you need to provide water, then water the container about once a month.
In the winter, tulip bulbs do not need to be fertilizer. Hold off on fertilizing until the early spring when you put the container back outside so that the tulips can grow.