Potted plants are beautiful, popular gifts throughout spring. Nothing quite says “Happy Easter!”, “Happy Mother’s Day!” or “I’m thinking of you” quite like a beautiful potted flower. After the bloom is spent, many of us are prone to tossing the potted flower into a compost pile. For annual bulbs, this may be the best choice. However, you may be asking yourself if you can replant some potted bulbs outside and enjoy having them bloom again next year.
This article will go over the many types of potted bulbs that are worth saving to replant and how you can make your potted bulbs last.
What Kinds of Spring Potted Bulbs Are Worth Saving to Replant?
Potted spring bulbs fall into the same categories that many garden flowers fall into, such as hardy, perennial, and annual spring bulbs. Like outdoor flowering bulbs, potted bulbs may not return the second year, but others will continue to bloom for years, possibly decades, if they are correctly transplanted.
Start by looking at the type of potted bulbs you have before deciding if they are worth your time and effort to transplant them into your garden.
Hardy Spring Bulbs
- Lily of the valley
- Grape hyacinths
- Full-size and miniature daffodils
- Summer snowflakes
- Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum)
- Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’
Shorter-lived Perennial Spring Bulbs
- Dutch iris
- Bleeding heart
- Rhizomes (tubers)
Spring Bulbs Ideally Grown as Annuals
- Most tulip species
- Calla lilies
- Siberian iris
- Bulbs grown in water, not soil
If your potted bulbs are in the hardy or short-lived perennial categories, consider putting in the time and energy to save them by replanting them. Please note that smaller bulbs usually have the best chances of naturalizing into your landscape and surviving for the following year.
However, smaller bulbs aren’t typically sold as potted plants for spring gifts because most people tend to go for the vibrant, bold tulips, hyacinths, or freesia as gifts. If you’ve ended up with large spring bulbs or bulbs best grown as annuals, consider composting them and purchasing spring-blooming bulbs to plant instead.
Tulips may be the most surprising of the previously mentioned flowers as many think that tulips can flower in the spring year after year. However, they are best treated as annuals. Chilling the tulip bulbs artificially so that they bloom early in spring, just in time to be potted gifts for Easter and Mother’s Day, takes a lot of energy out of the plant. With reduced energy, the tulips are often unable to bloom next year, so enjoy the potted tulips while you can and then compost the bulbs after the flowers are spent.
How Do I Make My Potted Bulbs Last?
If you’re unable to replant your potted bulbs, consider the following tips for making your potted bulbs last as long as possible:
Consider the growing season when spring bulbs typically bloom in your backyard. Usually, the days are still cool, and the nights are chilly. Rain and cloudy days are often common as well, so most spring flowers don’t need extensive sunlight. Recreate this environment inside for your plants by placing them in an area of your home that is cool, but still offers bright, natural light. Avoid placing them directly in sunlight because overly warm temperatures can cause your flowers to mature faster and fade quickly. If possible, move your spring potted bulbs to a cooler area at night to mimic the outside environment.
As for watering, water your spring potted bulbs whenever the top of the soil is dry. Avoid letting your flowerpot sit in standing water. Excess water can cause your flowers to die weeks earlier. Healthy potted bulbs should bloom for a few weeks but are unlikely to last longer than this as they are designed to be brief but beautiful.
What Should I Do With My Potted Flowers Once They Are Fading?
If you decide to replant your potted flowers, take the following steps to transplant them into your garden:
- When the flowers begin fading, trim the flowers off the plant but let the leaves be. The leaves are crucial for providing energy to the plant and its bulb, so continue to water the plant as long as the leaves remain green.
- After the plant has faded and turned brown, immediately stop watering the plant.
- Allow the plant to go completely brown, then pull on the leaves gingerly and remove the leaves. If the leaves don’t break off with gentle pulling, the plant isn’t ready to be replanted.
- Consider whether your plant would do better in your garden’s current conditions or if it would be better off being stored and planted in the fall. As a rule of thumb, if your garden’s soil is moist or heavily irrigated, keep the bulbs to be planted in the fall. Dormant bulbs typically thrive in drier soil, so you’ll want to avoid planting them if your soil is currently moist. If your soil is dry and you have a sunny place, plant the bulbs in this area immediately.
- If you choose to store your bulbs, place your pot of bulbs in a dry, cool, and well-ventilated area, such as a shed. You can also remove them from the pot, gently shake the soil off of the bulbs, and put them individually in a box, paper bags, or a crate to dry out.
- In the fall, plant your stored bulbs alongside any new spring-flowering bulbs and summer-flowering bulbs you may have purchased from your local garden center.
If you’re interested in transplanting bulbs into new pots next year, use the same guidelines for storing the bulb. Then, replant them in the fall with fresh soil, mulch, and fertilizer in the flower pot. Any bulbs that need to be pre-chilled while stored should never be kept next to fruit in a fridge because fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can cause the blooms to die.
If you want to replant tulips or annual spring flowers from a potted bulb, take the following steps for the best results:
- After the flower has stopped flowering, place the flower in bright, direct sunlight.
- Cut off all spent flowers so that the plant doesn’t try to form seeds, but keep the leaves and stems alone.
- Continue watering the plant’s soil one to two times a week or whenever the topsoil is dry. Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer every two weeks with water, or as the label recommends.
- Once the plant starts to yellow, reduce watering and stop fertilizing entirely. When all the leaves are dead, stop watering entirely and allow the rest of the foliage to die.
- Mix about 2 inches of compost into the top 8 inches of your garden bed. The compost is critical for improving the quality of your soil and its nutrition for this delicate flower.
- Choose a flower bed that gets full sun and drains well to avoid bulb rot.
- Wait until the frost danger in your area has passed, if possible. Otherwise, store the bulbs in a dry place for the summer and plant them in the fall.
- Remove dead foliage from the potted bulbs and take the bulbs out of the pot.
- Plant the potted bulb in the garden bed, pointy side upwards, and place the bulb approximately 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Create clusters of small bulbs by planting the bulbs 3 inches apart from each other. For larger bulbs, plant them 4-5 inches apart.
- After planting, water thoroughly. Continue using a bulb fertilizer throughout the spring and fall to keep the soil rich and moist for these new bulbs.
If you’re replanting tulips, remember that they will replant best in hardiness zones three through eight. Low chill tulip species, like the Tulipa bakeri, will do best in areas with mild winters and climates as they are more likely to make it through the winter.
Potted spring flowers are well-meaning, beautiful gifts that are popular throughout the spring and summer. However, it can be a shame to watch the flowers fade over time and die off.
We hope our piece on transplanting bulbs to new locations gives you some further insight into what kind of flower bulbs can be replanted in your garden or backyard. The most important takeaway is that the type of flower and whether or not it is a hardy or perennial plant will be the largest determinant of how successful you will be replanting the potted bulb outside. Also, consider the size of the bulbs. Small flower bulbs tend to naturalize better outdoors, so we strongly recommend thinking about these two factors before putting in the time and effort to replant your potted bulbs.