Layering spring bulbs in containers

I'm completely new to bulb planting (and gardening in general) but have  a variety of allium bulbs and I'd like to grow some of them in containers. For a variety of colour I was also planning on growing some tete-a-tete in the same containers. What would be the best way to arrange the bulbs? I've not managed to find any information on layering with these particular plants so not sure if that would be doable?

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  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 48,928

    I've never thought that alliums work well used in this way as they produce such large leaves. 

    I use Tete a Tete in layers with smaller spring bulbs such as grape hyacinths or Chionodoxa or Scilla. 

    "...tea and toasted buttered currant buns, can't compensate for lack of sun because the summer's all gone..."   Autumn Almanac - Ray Davies
  • Lily PillyLily Pilly Central southern Scotland Posts: 3,559

    A pot of alliums can be stunning standing alone. Especially if used for design e.g. On either side of a door or at a gate etc

    Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”
    A A Milne
  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,238

    I layer planted aliiums last year in tubs in order to have a stunnng display of... You get the idea. It wasn't as successful as I'd have liked. 

    My John Innes/MPC/Grit combo was too claggy I think and as I find with successive plantings the new things came up through a shambles of dead and dying leaves.

    Not great but it was my first attempt and I was/am still completely clueless! image  The tulips and wee starry things that I can't remember what they're called things were beautiful. image

    The bees liked it!

  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,153

    I had a go at layer planting in a pot last year for the first time and I learned a lot from it.

    I had winter flowering violas that were brilliant.  Then came the first lot, tulips, second lot pushed through and they were starry things that were lovely but then the next two lots of things were very weak, stringy, poor, searching for light because the foliage from the other stuff was dying down and then the last lot of stuff (I realised I'd been greedy) were just sad.

    I think I forgot to water and also to feed.  I think by the time the first flushes were over, they'd drained the compost (it was standard bag stuff) of goodness.

    I've built a new bed so the contents of that container are going out in the garden to sink or swim but if I were to do it again, I'd not cram so much in and have a feeding regime and maybe some topsoil in there.

  • Thank you all! Perhaps I will do a big pot with a few different allium types for variety and mix something else with my tetes 

  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 2,707

    In principle, you should aim to plant bulbs at about 4 times the depth of the bulb itself. So if you are planting allium roseum, for example, it will be shallower than the tete a tete. But if you were planting allium christophii or purple sensation, the tete a tete would be shallower.

    I don't disagree with what others have said about alliums generally not playing nice with others - but that is more true of the big flowered allium varieties - the mount everest, or purple sensation types - which are really large plants and will swamp other plants trying to survive in their vicinity.

    But there are a lot of allium species and some of the much smaller types would be fine - indeed would be a bit 'meh' on their own in a pot. So it depends very much which onion you plan to grow.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time
    Sir Terry Pratchett
  • Thank you raisingirl

    I have some sphaerocephalon which might be ok??

  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,173

    Do tulips work OK with narcissi? A lot of 'how to layer bulbs' tutorials out there, but not many pictures of successful results. I was planning on doing 'bulb lasagnas' with Tulip 'Ronaldo' but I'm nervous about a mish mash of competing and fading leaves spoiling the look.

    Maybe I'll do tulips with something like Anemone 'White Splendour', which looks like it will provide a nice frilly base for the tulips to grow out of, rather than compete for space with them.

  • I guess layering only works for different size bulbs (that would require different depth). But I only have bulbs at about the same size, i.e. daffodils and tulips. So I just put them really close together in one tight level. Already wondering if it will work out, but frankly I think with the bulbs not really much can go wrong. They have inside of them  all the energy  they need to grow some roots for drinking and leaves for photosynthesis. So I'm very hopeful and looking forward to spring already image

  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 2,707

    sphaerocephalon are small leafed, it's true but late flowering (at least they are here - July to August) so wouldn't flower at the same time as tete a tete, which are usually around March, and therefore I'm not sure they'd work together in a pot, unless you plan to plant it once and just leave it. In that case you'll need something else in there, like a hebe or heuchera, that will be there from February to September and maybe flower in May/June when neither of the bulbs are blooming.

    Personally I fidget with my pots too much, so have ones for Spring and then a complete change (including of compost) for summer into Autumn. So those two bulbs would be in different season pots - as Dove suggests, tete a tete with muscari or reticulata irises, and the alliums with heuchera or an attractive grass.

    WillDB - some tulips are OK, but like Alliums they have very wide leaves so some will shade out anything else. If you're doing 'proper' lasagne planting so you get successional flowering, then as long as the tulips are last and the others are a fair bit earlier, then it'll be possible. Tulips need quite a good food supply to flower well though, so you would need to keep feeding the pots. I think your tulips with anenomes is a better plan.

    When I do layering with bulbs it's usually with smaller ones and also types that flower fairly close together so I get 6 to 8 weeks of fairly intense flowering and then change the pots over so they can all fade away together behind the shed, rather than have them dying slowly while I watch. That also reduces the risk of the sort of exhaustion that Cloggie describes.

    BBS - be ready to feed and water them - if they are very close together, they'll dry out quickly

    Last edited: 29 September 2017 10:22:36

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time
    Sir Terry Pratchett
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