Monty Don's clever tip for getting three months of beautiful spring flowers from just one container

Monty Don shares his bulb planting tip for how to layer spring bulbs in a container and create the perfect early-blooming display

Monty Don bulb planting tip
(Image credit: Isabella Kramer/Unsplash)

Monty Don's bulb planting tip for layering spring bulbs for container gardening is the perfect solution for between-season gardens that are in need of a pick-me-up. The clever trick will create a display of spring blooms that will delight for months, from as early as January to as late as April. 

The video, posted on Gardener's World, takes you through the whole process, and we're pleased to report that bulb layering is quite easy. All you need is a large pot, good-quality compost, and, of course, the bulbs. 

Monty uses Iris Reticulata, which, he explains, 'glow like jewels' in early spring, a very pretty yellow daffodil called Tête-à-tête, and April-flowering tulips called Negrita. 

See: Monty Don says now is the time to plant tulips – plus 5 more of the best flowers to plant for Spring

Monty Don's bulb planting tip

First, however, you need to choose the correct pot: a large one with a wide opening in order to maximize the layering potential. 

Next, you'll need to fill the bottom of the pot with free-draining compost; for best results, Monty advises mixing whatever compost you have with perlite or horticultural grit, as well as adding a bit of leaf mould, which spring bulbs seem to particularly like.

Then, the planting can begin. The tulip bulbs go in first, pointy side up, about an inch apart. Then, they're covered with another layer of compost. This second layer is planted up with the daffodils, in the same manner. They are then covered with a final layer of compost, which is planted with the iris – the earliest flowering bulbs of the lot. 

The iris will flower in February, with the daffodils following in March. Position in 'a reasonably sunny, reasonably sheltered spot', and just wait for them to start coming up.

Spring flowers in container

(Image credit: Unsplash)

The only issue with planting spring bulbs is that your container will look quite bare until the iris start blooming. Monty has a solution – planting up the top with flowering pansies. All they need is to be kept moist, and then they'll delight you with winter colour all the way into February. 

You can also use cyclamen or hellebore – both flower throughout winter and make for a wonderful container display. 

Don't worry about the bulbs finding their way through the pansies on top – they definitely will. This amazing layering technique is the perfect idea for small gardens or a favorite pot you want to fill with stunning blooms ahead of summer. 

What happens if you plant bulbs in spring?

Planting bulbs in spring may mean that they flower later in summer, but it is possible that they won't bloom until the following spring. If you have left it until spring to plant bulbs, it is worth planting up the top of the container with winter flowers so that you have some color in your garden until spring, when other bulbs you planted earlier start to flower.

Do bulbs need special compost?

Bulbs do need special compost to thrive: ideally one that drains well so that they don't rot if the container or soil suffers from repeated winter and spring downpours. A thin later of grit added with bulb planting compost added on top will produce good results.

Anna K. Cottrell is now a freelance writer, having previously been a Content Editor for Future's homes titles. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening. On H&G, she specialized in writing about property – buying, selling, renting – sustainability and eco issues.