By Sarah Wilson published
Learning how to plant a bulb lasagne is one of the best ways to make the most of your spring bulbs. A favorite of gardening guru Monty Don – who uses the approach in his own garden pots – it's all about planting different varieties of bulbs on top of each other in a pot or container. The result? Waves of colorful blooms that will jolly up your plot for months on end.
Just like a lasagne (hence the name), the idea is to build up your container in layers. The biggest bulbs (and last to flower) go in deepest, moving through to the smallest ones on top (earliest to flower). This will give you a continuous spring display, with the earliest bulbs at the top flowering in February, and the lower layers in April/May.
How to plant a bulb lasagne in five easy steps
All it takes is five simple steps to learn how to plant a bulb lasagne. It's a surefire way to give your garden a boost next spring.
1. Gather your tools
Before you start planting your bulb lasagne, you'll need to make sure you've got everything you need. So, the first step is to gather together the following:
- A selection of bulbs – Marcus recommends daffodils, tulips, and crocuses
- A large, glazed container at 30cm (11.8in) diameter
- Peat-free multipurpose compost
- Gardening gloves
- Watering can
2. Start with a layer of compost
Pop on your gardening gloves. This is important as some bulbs can irritate the skin when handled. Then, add a 10cm (around 4in) layer of peat-free compost to the bottom of the container and firm it down with your hands.
3. Plant your first layer of bulbs
Place the tulip bulbs on the surface of the compost with their pointed tip facing up.
'Fit in as many as you can, although make sure they are not touching,' says Marcus. As a general rule of thumb, you'll want to keep them around a bulb's width apart. Avoid letting them touch the sides of the pot, too.
Once they're in position, cover with a layer of compost.
- Want to plant more spring bulbs in your backyard? Our guides on how to plant tulips and how to plant daffodil bulbs have lots of useful tips.
4. Add your second and third layers
'Repeat the process with the daffodils, and then again with the crocus,' says Marcus. Try to avoid planting the bulbs directly on top of one another.
The compost should be near the top of the pot when all three layers are planted.
5. Find the right spot for your pot
Once planted, gently water your bulb lasagne. Marcus suggests placing your pot on 'pot feet' to ensure it drains freely. Then, leave it in a sheltered spot, for example, against the house wall on your patio. If squirrels or mice are a problem, cover the pot with wire mesh – although you can find more tips on how to get rid of squirrels in our guide.
When green shoots appear in spring, move the pot into the open, ideally somewhere sunny. And remember to keep it watered in dry weather. Marcus says to 'check the compost is damp but not wet every week.'
When should you plant a bulb lasagne?
Spring bulbs need planting in the autumn, so plant your bulb lasagne then. Generally, September–October is best for most, but double-check the instructions on your chosen bulbs' packets. Tulips can often go in as late as November.
What can you put on the top of your bulb lasagne?
Of course, once your bulb lasagne starts blooming it will look fabulous, but until then, it can look a little bare. However, there is a way to give it a bit more visual appeal over winter.
Marcus suggests planting winter bedding plants such as pansies or violas on the top for instant color. You could also add a layer of decorative grit or gravel, which always looks smart.
Looking for more ideas for the best winter plants for pots? Our dedicated guide has plenty of lovely varieties to try.
Can you plant a two-layer bulb lasagne?
If you're new to this, starting with two layers is a good idea while you get the hang of things. The display will still look gorgeous. For example, try using crocus or miniature irises on top and tulips beneath.
Go for three layers if you're feeling more confident and you've got a large enough pot. You can try crocuses on top, daffodils in the middle and tulips at the bottom, as in the example explained above, or go for a different combo – there is plenty of opportunity to get creative.
What other flowers can you use for your bulb lasagne?
You can go for any combination of spring bulbs that you prefer, including varieties such as snowdrops, hyacinths, and muscari. You'll find plenty of bulb lasagne ideas in our guide if you're looking for inspiration. It's also possible to make a lasagne with just different types of tulips, as some varieties flower later than others.
Simply check the details on the bulb packet for information on when they flower and how deep they need to be planted to plan the perfect combination.
What should you do when your bulb lasagne has finished flowering?
Most bulbs planted in the ground are likely to come back year after year, but for those planted in pots, a repeat show is a little less reliable.
You can dig up the bulbs after they have finished flowering and simply discard them, then plant a fresh design in autumn. In the meantime, you can try out some container gardening ideas with summer bedding plants.
Alternatively, you can try your luck at planting the bulbs in the ground to see if they appear next year. If you decide to give this a go, let the foliage die back before digging them up, discard any damaged or diseased ones, then place what's left into storage for them to dry out. They'll be ready for replanting later in the year.
You can find more info on how to store tulip bulbs in our guide.
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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