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Layering Spring-Flowering Garden Bulbs

Moving bulbs and plants around the garden in the fall gives me an opportunity to correct one of the garden mistakes I committed early on. When I was planting bulbs I dug them into the ground without giving much thought to one day expanding the garden or rearranging plants. Learn from my mistake and get in the habit of layering spring-flowering garden bulbs today. Whether you have a small urban garden, or you're gardening on a balcony and want to plant bulbs in containers, you can stack bulbs deep to get more blooms.

How to layer garden bulbs

In the post on miniature garden bulbs for small-space gardens, I recommended some of my favorite small bulbs. But I mentioned that I also grow larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Look around this garden blog and you'll come across other large bulbs like alliums, Oriental and Asiatic lilies, and they all live pretty much in harmony in a very small urban front yard. Below I'll give you my tips on how to layer garden bulbs.

How to Plant Spring-Blooming bulbs

How to Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs by Layering:

Ignore the roots in the photos of my bulbs. These bulbs were already growing in my garden when I decided to condense the plantings by layering the bulbs. When you buy your bulbs from the garden center, they will not have roots and that's perfectly fine.

Visit your local garden center and buy all the bulbs you're interested in planting in your garden. Choose a sunny, well-draining section of the garden you want to plant your bulbs in. Take the largest bulbs like tulips, daffodils, lilies and hyacinths and plant them at the recommended planting depth on the packaging. Did you toss the packaging before reading the planting depth suggestion? Well, I generally plant them about twice as deep as they are tall. You can also plant them as deep as the blade on your garden trowel. Can't find your garden trowel? Just plant the bulbs about 6-8 inches deep.

Once you've planted in your large bulbs, cover the bulbs with about 1-2 inches of the same soil you dug out of that hole. Directly over that, you will plant your miniature narcissus, crocus, grape hyacinths, scilla and any other small bulbs that caught your fancy at the garden center. Now fill in the hole with the rest of the soil. It may be a good idea to leave some kind of plant tag or garden marker over newly planted bulbs to remind you not to step or dig there.

In the spring the small bulbs will break dormancy first and begin to flower. By the time the small bulbs have stopped blooming it will be time for the larger bulbs to put on show of flowers in the garden. Keep in mind that bulbs look better planted in masses so don't plant just one or two bulbs per hole. Plant your larger bulbs in groups of four or more.

Are you gardening on a balcony or patio and don't have ground you can plant bulbs in?Layering spring-flowering garden bulbs in containers and raised beds works too. Although, if you're planting or transplanting iris rhizomes, I do not recommend layering any bulbs below them as iris clumps need more room and will quickly outcompete any bulbs planted below them. Plant them in a separate spot.

Do you layer garden bulbs in your garden or containers? What's your favorite combination of bulbs to plant together?


  1. I agree that layering is a great idea and that it you let them die down properly when they have finished you can have a repeat each year. I think many gardeners neglect the dying down part and I did a post last year called 'down daffy lily!'
    Think it's a bit of a simplification to say the small ones come first!

    1. Roger, Why do you think it's a bit of a simplification? Isn't it true that the smaller blooming bulbs break dormancy and bloom before larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths that bloom later in the season?

  2. MGT, you are not only sensible and creative, but have a great way with words, too. I need to do more of this. In fact, I might just mosey out tomorrow and pick up some bulbs to plant a big container for my deck. thanks.

    1. Webb,

      Thanks for the compliment and the feedback. I hope you do get a chance to plant more bulbs this year.

  3. You can layer the exact same size, and even type, of bulbs, too. The deeper bulbs will come up later!

    1. Monica, really good point that I'm glad you brought up because I forgot all about that. Yes, the deeper bulbs of the same variety will come up later and provide blooms longer. Thanks.

  4. Hey MBT,
    Great input especially for those with limited space. I'm layering some beet red hyacinths below a gorgeous mix of sky blue, navy blue and white muscari in three of my 2' wide hanging baskets in stands.

    1. Patrick,
      Thanks for the feedback and for pointing out that you can layer them in planters like hanging baskets. We often don't think of bulbs are container garden plants, but they work just as well in containers as they do in the ground.

  5. I look forward to a post on layering or space saving for a veggie pot garden too.

  6. Anonymous11:31 AM

    The Super Market I shop in sold pots already layered with tulips, daffs and I forget what else---you planted the whole pot as it was biodegradable. Unfortunately, the chipmunks and mice ate all but the daffodils last year----so much for that.-----------------------------------------Weedy

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