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How do I deal with finished pot displays

Hi everyone. My first question:  I am at a loss as to what to do with the contents of pots whose displays are finished with. How do I deal with the contents, identify bulbs and separate roots etc without damaging everything? I'd like to reuse the bulbs, compost and other plants if possible.
I hope this doesn't seem pretty basic!  


  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,911
    edited April 2018
    If the bulbs are daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinths, that sort of thing then take all the old flower heads off, lift them out of your pot carefully- bulbs, leaves, compost and all, pop them into a plastic pot with as little disturbance as you can and leave them somewhere out of the way so the leaves can die back naturally (this feeds the bulbs). Then in late summer, tip them out of the plastic pots into a tray and sort though to find the nice fat bulbs. Throw away any that are soft or shrivelled up. Plant the good ones out and off you go again. They won't mind at all. You can save yourself trouble next year by actually planting them in plastic pots which you just drop inside the ornamental pots, then take them out again when they've finished but that's more for your benefit than the daffs.

    Tulips rarely come good a second year. You can keep them in the same way, dry them out over summer and then plant them again, but usually it takes 3 or 4 years before you get any decent flowers from the same bulb. I usually just compost this year's old ones and don't have very many.

    Violas and primroses/primulas I often will simply plant out into the garden where most will thrive. Some I keep in the pots which I move to an out of the way, shady place (back of the shed) for the summer and then bring them out again in autumn, having given them a bit of a trim and a feed.

    Reusing compost is more tricky. You need to add food to it as it will be exhausted of nutrients and be aware that it may have bugs and diseases acquired in use so, for example, don't plant new tulips in old compost that had tulips in it before - they may die.
    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,200
    Hi Julie

    As Raisingirl says - it depends a bit on what you were growing in the pots. Her advice is sound if you want to reuse bulbs in pot displays next year.

    I prefer to use the contents of spring pots to increase and improve my border displays. I grow a tete-a-tete & scillia mix in flower pots by the front door and crocus in pots elsewhere. When they've finished I carefully lift all the bulbs out - they often come out as one big mass held together by intertwined roots. I try to divide 'the mass' into slightly smaller bits without damaging any bulbs & retaining all the foliage. The 'bits' are then replanted immediately in and around the garden where there were gaps in the spring display. They get a feed of BFB and a drink and the foliage is allowed to die back naturally. Hopefully, they come up next year as part of the border display.

    Primulas can also be planted out in the garden and divided to make several new plants if they are large enough. You can either plant them to be part of next spring's border or tuck them in an out of the way 'utility spot' to grow away over the summer, ready to be lifted and put back in pots in the autumn. They would also appreciate a feed.

    Spent compost is best spread on the borders as a mulch IMO.
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • julie309julie309 Posts: 4
    Wow, I don't think I expected such quick or such comprehensive answers. It all makes so much sense now. I guess I need to keep better track of what I plant, that might help 😂. 
    I feel more confident tackling the job now. Thanks both. J
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,200
    👍 Welcome to the forum  :)
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Mark56Mark56 Posts: 1,653
    edited April 2018
    I do the same as the others :) I often move the alliums in the same way, even in the front bed and put them in plastic pots when they have finished flowering to free up space for the cosmos, then when the foliage has died back I dry and store them. Most of the other spring bulbs remain in their plastic pots but go at the side of the shed. 
  • julie309julie309 Posts: 4
    Thank you Mark. Thank goodness the shed has just been erected this weekend. Sounds like I need that space and a few pots and I'm in business 😊
  • julie309julie309 Posts: 4
    Thanks Topbird, I can see it being v useful 👍
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