Planting bulbs in baskets

Here is a trick that you may not have come across: planting bulbs in baskets. The idea is that instead of planting bulbs straight into the soil, that you first place them in mesh-pots, then bury the pot.

There are several benefits to this method: First, it makes it much easier to lift the clump later, which can be handy when it comes to dividing clumps (e.g. snowdrops).

Secondly, if you are in the habit of lifting tulips after flowering, planting them in small groups in baskets could make them easier to lift.

For small bulbs, such as crocus and snowdrops — especially named varieties — being planted in a basket helps keep them together in a clump and reduces the chance of offsets ending up “wandering off” into adjacent plants.

An additional benefit of planting in baskets — and why I did it this year — is to protect newly planted bulbs from hungry rodents. Squirrels and mice are particularly fond of crocuses, tulips and snowdrops. Placing a lid of chicken wire on the baskets can frustrate their attempts to dig up your bulbs.

For small bulbs, aquatic baskets are ideal as they have many holes on all sides allowing water, nutrients and roots to pass through. For larger bulbs, commercial bulb-baskets are available, although I have not used these myself.

Planting Crocus in Baskets

Here are the crocus bulbs I wanted to plant. These were purchased “in the green”, i.e. sprouted, but dormant bulbs in the autumn would work just as well.

I purchased several sizes of aquatic plant basket — a ten-inch round basket is shown above — then using chicken wire, fashioned a lid. I then mixed up fresh topsoil with added grit for drainage along with bonemeal to feed the roots.

Crocuses should be planted between 10-15 cm (4-6 in) deep. I decided to try planting them in two layers: one 15 cm and the other 10 cm deep. If it works, then I should get a nice dense clump, yet each bulb has space to divide and expand.

Here is the second layer of bulbs going in. These were then topped off with more planting mix.

I then added the chicken-wide lid and bent the edges of the wire tightly under the rim of the pot to keep those pesky rodents out.

Finally, I buried the pots in my gravel garden so that the bulbs were at their correct depth.

Results

Just a week after planting, I discovered a break-in attempt. A small crater had been dug by an unidentified rodent (I’m guessing you squirrel!) down to the mesh. I was so pleased I had added the chicken wire! I put the soil and gravel back in place, but a few days later a second attempt was made. Again, the mesh worked.

A few weeks later…

The crocuses came up rather randomly: not how I expected. I thought I would get a nice dense clump of flowers, but instead they have emerged in a very scatter-gun way, with some flowering well ahead of others and at different heights. My guess is that this is due to using pre-sprouted bulbs (in the green) rather than it being due to the basket technique. Perhaps they were confused by being sprouted before planting. I imagine exposure to light triggered them to start forming above-ground leaves and buds, only to then be buried. Hopefully, they will get their act together for next year and coordinate their flowering.

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2 thoughts on “Planting bulbs in baskets”

    • Yes! There are some bulbs (such as tulips) that often do better if lifted during their dormant season, and planting them in baskets makes the lifting task easier. For other bulbs (crocus etc) the baskets and mesh can stay in the ground protecting the bulbs all year round. The baskets also stop you digging the bulbs up accidentally if you go to plant something a bit too near them!

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