Can I Plant Potted Bulbs Outside?
Q: I got some potted bulbs (crocus, daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth) on clearance after Valentine’s Day that were nearly done flowering. Someone told me that you can’t plant them outside because they are too weak. This doesn’t seem right. Can I plant them outside?
A: Yes, you can plant them outside. What generally happens is that these hardy bulbs are forced into bloom unnaturally early for folks to enjoy indoors. Ideally, you would want to keep the bulb plants green and thriving for as long as possible. Remove spent flowers but keep the leaves. Place the potted bulb plants in a sunny window. Allow them to dry between waterings.
It’s often the case that these potted bulbs are forced in pots that have no drainage. Drainage is critical for their health. In this case, drill some holes in the bottom of the pot or transplant them into a better pot. As the leaves yellow and collapse (which is normal) reduce watering to virtually none.
Place the dormant plants into a cool, dry place. When the ground thaws in the spring, plant the bulbs into the garden. You will generally plant the bulbs deeper in the ground than they were in the pots. Just as for bulbs that are normally planted in the fall, prepare the soil appropriately according to each species and keep them moist. Often, these forced bulbs won’t flower the next spring. Fertilize them with an appropriate bulb food as the leaves emerge from the soil to help the bulbs create and store energy for the next year.