Bulb layering: try our unbelievably easy tiramisu recipe!
We gardeners really do believe that you can never have too many spring bulbs, as we all look forward to their fabulous flowers turning the garden into a riot of colour. However, the one problem many of us face is not having enough space. Fortunately, for every problem, there is a solution. In this case, it’s layering and with this, you’re really going for the WOW factor!
You may have heard this planting style referred to as lasagne planting, but we’ve decided that as it is so yummy, we’re going to call it tiramisu! Essentially, you’ll be layering your bulbs, just as you would in making a tiramisu. It’s important to choose bulbs with different flowering times for each layer, so that you get a longer-lasting display as each blooms and fades. The last to flower are the biggest bulbs that are planted towards the bottom of the pot, with layers of earlier flowering bulbs above them. It really is very easy to do!
Pick your pot
For two layers of bulbs, you’ll need a pot that’s at least 15cm deep (ideally a bit deeper), to give your bulbs space to grow. The circumference of the pot will be predicated by the amount of bulbs you want to plant, but the good thing is that you can plant bulbs closer together in a container – but not too close! You’re looking for that concentrated ‘flavour’ so you don’t want to end up with gaps.
Prepare your pot and start layering
Pop some crocks at the bottom of the pot to stop the drainage holes clogging up with compost, as bulbs rot easily in cold, wet soil. Then place a 5cm layer of potting medium in the pot, followed by the biggest, latest-flowering bulbs (for example, tulips or hyacinths) in a layer on top of the soil, about 2.5cm apart. Cover them up with another 5cm layer of potting soil.
Next, add another layer of smaller, earlier flowering bulbs (such as daffodils, Dutch irises, Anemone, and Muscari) on top of this layer, about 2.5cm apart to ensure that the bulbs below can find their way past them. Don’t stress though about potentially planting right on top of the others - the emergent shoots of the lower layer bulbs just bend round anything they hit, sitting over their heads, and keep on growing. Cover these with another layer of potting soil.
If your pot is deep enough, you can place a third layer of smaller, early flowering bulbs such as Leucojum, Muscari, Freesia or Ipheion on top, and cover them up. While you’re waiting for your tiramisu to ‘be served’, you can overplant with winter annuals such as pansies or violas which will continue to give colour through spring too. So do think about the colour combination that will work best with the colour of the bulb flowers.
Take into consideration the height that each bulb will ultimately grow to when placing the bulbs, which you can check on the pack before you plant. Taller varieties should be towards the centre, with the shorties around the edges so they can all be seen at their best.
Caring for your bulb tiramisu
Once your planting is done, give them a good feed of bulb food, then water well and continue to water often while the bulbs are putting out roots. When each layer has flowered, deadhead the flowers (and cut back the foliage when it’s died right back) to keep things tidy.
The result? Pots chock-a-block with waves of beautiful flowers which will keep going right through spring…
General bulb planting tips for containers
Bulbs ideally suited to pot growth include Snowflakes (Leucojum), Iris, grape hyacinth (Muscari), Anemone, hyacinths, Narcissus, tulips, Lachenalia, Tritonia and Freesia.
Drainage is really important, so all pots and containers need one or more holes in the bottom. You’ll cover the holes with crocks – pottery shards or pebbles – which will ensure the holes stay unclogged.
You can plant your bulbs closer together in a pot than you do in the garden. Even so, they shouldn’t touch each other or the sides of the pot.
If you’re only going to plant one layer of bulbs, plant at the same depth as you would in the garden – at a depth of twice their height at least.
Water regularly in the first weeks when their roots are forming. Don’t let the potting soil dry out. Give the pots enough water that you see it running out of the bottom.