Bulbs that can be Grown in Container, Part II-From H to Z

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In this second and final part of the series, we continue our journey into bulbs that can be grown in containers. This will have some of the more familiar varieties, as well as varieties that are rarer and more difficult to find. Part 1 can be found here.

Yet again there are plenty of bulbs to choose from covering all aspects from flower colours and shapes, plant heights and form.

What follows are bulbs that can be grown in containers beginning with the Letter H and finishing with Z.



This bulb is related to Hippeastrum (the amaryllis bulb), but it is not as showy as its cousin. It grows up to 1m in height, where crocus-like flowers are borne on top of an upright flowering stalk. The flowers are coppery orange on the outside, but yellow inside. The unique feature of this flower is that it is held at an angle to the stalk. You can find the two outdoor varieties at bulb specialists, but it is not available from garden centres.

It thrives in full sun in a well-drained humus rich multipurpose compost.

HEDYCHIUM (Ginger Lily)


This eye-catching bulb comes from exotic India and is used as a bedding plant. You can plant it as a specimen plant in a large container full of humus rich multipurpose compost. It grows up to 1.2m, producing yellow or white, red, pink, or orange flowers. The fragrant flowers have long stamens.

The tall stems have long leaves from which the spectacular flower head emerge in July to September.

In mild areas, it can be grown as a permanent fixture, if it planted against a south-facing wall in full sun. In other areas plant the rhizomes in peat compost in March for planting out in June.



Widow Iris is a small plant only growing to 30cm in height, where flowers appear singly on stalks. The inner petals are green whilst the outer ones are brown-purple. The grey-green leaves are long and narrow.

It flowers from March to April, making it an excellent addition to spring container with crocuses and daffodils. Plant in a well-drained non-acidic multipurpose compost in full sun. The leaves die back in summer and it would appreciate being mulched in winter.



These are rare bulbs that can flower in spring and summer. You will have to search to find a supplier. The leaves are long and narrow, from which star or cup-shaped flowers are borne on top of wiry stems. It is a tender plant and needs the protection of being grown in a sheltered sunny site. The plant grows up to 60 cm in height when planted in a well-drained multipurpose compost in a warm area of the garden.

Plant the corms in January and lift again in October, where it can be stored in dry wood shavings until replanting time.



This is another rare bulb which you will have to look for if you want to purchase it. They are short plants only growing to 10cm in height. Depending on the variety chosen you can have short flowering spikes with few or many blue or white bell-shaped blooms. The flowers do not produce many strap-like leaves, so the flower is more visible.

Plant in full sun in well-drained, sandy multipurpose compost.


Hyacinths have never been as popular as tulips, crocuses or daffodils. The main reason why is that they are pricier than other spring bulbs. They have many advantages from a long flowering period, a good range of colours and a strong pleasant fragrance,

In most composts, you can leave the Dutch hyacinths in the container over winter, but the display in the second year is not as good. It is better to let the leaves die back, lift the bulb up and then store in dry wood shavings until planting once again in September or October. This group of hyacinths will flower in April to early May.


Flowers come in colours from white to dark purple. The plants grow up to 30cm in height and may require staking to stop the flower heads from flopping all over the place. An alternative to grow is the multiflora hyacinths where the little flowers are thinly produced on multiple flowering stems. Fewer colours are available than Dutch, but you can still find whiter, pink or blue.

Hyacinth thrives in multipurpose compost in full sun or light shade. When choosing bulbs do not choose the large ones, as these are indoor varieties. Instead chose medium size bedding Hyacinths that are more weather resistant.

IPHEION (Spring Starflower)


This is an easy plant to grow where it reaches 15cm in height. It has strap-like leaves with star-shaped white, blue or violet blooms crowing each stalk in spring. The flowers are scented, but the leaves emit a pungent garlic smell when crushed. This is one bulb that gets better with age, where it will flower more profusely. Grow in well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.


Irises can be divided into two groups; the rhizomes, and the bulbs. We will be concentrating on the bulb group. The flower colours span the rainbow, where they can be produced between February and July. Iris bulbs grow smaller than the Rhizomes.

Survival over winter can be a problem as some varieties are tender. They should not be disturbed for at least 5 years as this will encourage the plant to multiply.

Iris Reticulata
Iris Reticulata

The species of Iris bulb is divided into 3 divisions. The first division consists of Reticulata irises, which is a dwarf iris that only grows to 15cm in height, and flowers in February and March. Xiphium Irises grow quite tall, up to 60cm in height, and flowers in June-July. Finally, there are the Juno irises, which grows up to 60cm in height and flowers in April and May. The later division is not very popular as they are the most tend in the garden.

All Irises prefers to be grown well-drained sandy compost in full sun.

IXIA (Corn Lily)


Ixia produces star-like flowers on wiry stems in early summer, where they can grow up to 45cm in height. The leaves are strap-like, but the blooms are very colourful from yellow, orange, pink, or red, with a darker centre. The blooms close in dull weather.

In milder regions when planted in well-drained sandy multipurpose compost, you can leave the corms to overwinter. In other areas, you need to plant the corms deep in March and lift when the foliage has faded. Store in a dry place for planting next year.

IXIOLIRION (Ixia lily)


This rare bulb is not related to Ixia. You will need to search for it as it is not available in garden centres. The plant grows up to 45cm in height, where funnel-shaped lavender or violet-blue flowers are produced in June. A cluster of blooms is borne loosely on top of each thin stem. It is best to plant in March in a sandy well-drained multipurpose compost. Lift and store the bulbs in autumn in a dry place until planting next year.

LEUCOJUMS (Snowflakes)

This plant looks similar to snowdrops, as both appear in spring, and both bear nodding flowers made out of six white petals. Snowflakes petals are all the same size, with yellow or green spotting on them, whilst this is not observed with snowdrops.


There are three varieties of snowflakes, flowering in spring, summer or autumn. The spring flowering one blooms in February-March, where it grows up to 20cm in height. It will grow in full sun or full shade.

The summer snowflake grows up to 60cm in height, where it flowers are produced in April –May. The small autumn variety only grows up to 13cm in height, where it blooms in September. This variety like full sun and a sandy compost.

Spring and summer varieties prefer growing in a moisture retentive multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.


Lily is seen as a difficult plant as it will not produce abundant flowers in the first year, and will quickly rot in a non-free draining compost. This is not true nowadays as a number of trouble-free species have been discovered that are more vigorous and disease free. The bulbs need to be planted as soon as they have been bought.

Lilum Auratum
Lilium Auratum

Lilies are a large group which is so diverse. The flowers can grow from 2.5cm to 30cm in diameter, and some have a pleasant smell, whilst others are described as unpleasant. The flowers come in all colours of the rainbow apart from a true blue.

There are dwarfs, which only grow up to 30cm in height to the 2.4m giant lilies. Most lilies are in the 90cm to the 1.5m range. If you chose the right varieties you will have colour from June to October.

All lilies have the same requirements of a humus rich multipurpose compost, where extra well-rotted organic matter has been added. Few lilies will need lime to be added, such as L.Auratum, but most other varieties care okay with or without any lime being added.


They require a sunny spot but a little shade will cause no harm. Ironically lilies do better if the base of the plant is shielded by shorter plants planted in front of them. Lily bulbs must never be allowed to dry before planting. Planting depths are normally 15-20cm. It is best to sprinkle coarse sand at


the bottom of the planting hole. It is also best to sprinkle sand between the rots to prevent water from pooling around the bulb. Once the lilies are actively growing water thoroughly and often. Give an occasion feed with tomato fertilizer during the growing season.

Stalking will be required from the 90+cm varieties. Deadheading of faded blooms are also required, and when flowering has finished and the flowering stalk has died, then it should be cut to the ground.

In containers, it is recommended that you plant 3-4 bulbs in a large pot, making sure that each plant is well-supported. The bulbs will need protection in winter so cover them with organic mulch.

There are six hybrids that are on offer and these include Asiatic, Martagon, Candidum, American, Trumpet and Oriental Hybrids.

Asiatic and Oriental hybrids are the most commonly grown.

MUSCARI (Grape Hyacinth)


This popular clump-forming bulb produces splashes of colour in spring containers. The flowers are usually blue, sometimes on the verge of being purple. You would normally plant it with tulips and daffodils. The flowers are tiny bell-shaped that are clustered on top of strap-like leaves. It grows up to 23cm in height when it is planted in a well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun.

NARCISSUS (Narcissus, Daffodils)

Narcissus are seen everywhere in spring from containers, garden, park, and grass verges. It is no surprise that it is our favourite spring flower. Before dealing with how to plant these beauties, we need to clear up the confusion caused by its common name.

Narcissus is their Latin name of the genus irrespectively of the shape and size of the trumpet of the flower. Daffodils are restricted to those varieties where the trumpet is longer than or as long as those petals that surround it. Short trumpets are known as narcissus, whilst long trumpets are known as daffodils.


There are hundreds of varieties available, coming in different shapes, sizes and colours. The smallest is 8cm tall, whilst the tallest is 60cm in height. The colours include the familiar yellow and white, but the trumpet could be also orange, pink, apricot, or red. They can be single bloom or double blooms. With all varieties, flower stalks appear above strap-like leaves.

The flowering period is February to April and can be classed as early, mid or late season depending on when the variety flowers.


They are easy to grow and will succeed in any reasonable multipurpose compost, although they prefer the compost to be fertile and moist. All apart from the tazetta division, the rest are fully hardy.

Dwarf varieties are popular in containers such as N. bulbocodium and N. ‘Minnow’ are typical examples. To make choices easier the genus is split into 12 divisions, which can appear on online and catalogues.

Narcissus tazetta
Narcissus tazetta

Plants carefully chosen are planted between August and October in a hole that is twice the size of the height of the bulb. Bulbs can be set 20cm apart, closer for smaller bulbs, further apart for larger ones.

Time to feed the compost is before planting or in February before the bulbs start to flower. There is no point in feeding on or after it has flowered. Remove dead flowers as soon as possible and let the foliage die back naturally. All Narcissus prefers to be planted in a well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun or light shade.

The twelve divisions are

Division 1: Trumpet daffodils

Division 2: Large-cupped narcissi

Division 3: Small-cupped narcissi

Division 4: Double narcissi

Division 5: Triandius narcissi

Division 6: Cyclamineus narcissi

Division 7: Jonquilla narcissi

Division 8: Tazetta narcissi

Division 9: Poeticus narcissi

Division 10: Wild narcissi

Division 11: Split-Corona narcissi

Division 12: Miscellaneous narcissi



This stately plant is closely related to alliums. The leaves have a distinct keel along their lengths, and in late spring the tall leafless stems appear. In May-June on top of these stalks pink and green tinted cream flower appear that hang down from the thin stems. It grows up to 1.2m in height when planted in a well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun.


nerine bowdenii
Nerine bowdenii

Most often these bulbs are considered too tender to grow outside. N.bowdenii is the only species that can be grown outside. It grows up to 60cm in height where pink flowers are produced between September and October.

The blooms last a long time and are clustered on top of a leafless stem. The leaves appear in late summer, grow until next spring and then die back in early summer.

It prefers a well-drained multipurpose compost in a sheltered spot in full sun.



This rare bulb is hard to find and must be planted in a well-drained, humus rich multipurpose compost in partial shade. It will do well under a shrub in a container.

The upper half of the stems bear lance-shaped leaves and the nodding saucer-shaped flowers have petals that are often fringed and spotted. Plant the bulb in November where it will grow up to 90cm in height.



This is an unusual plant which has an unusual growth habit. Iris dies after flowering and its offset will produce next year’s growth. The long marrow leaves appear at the base of the plant from autumn to early spring.

The plant grows up to 90cm in height when planted in well-drained, humus rich multipurpose compost in full sun or light shade. Protect the crown in winter by mulching. The bulbs are normally planted on October and November.



There are two distinct groups. The first group is normally planted outdoor in April for flowering in July-August. They are not hardy and are discarded after flowering. The bulb produce white and green star-shaped flowers., and can grow up to 45cm in height. The second group are much hardier and are more commonly found in suppliers’ literature. They also grow up to 45cm in height. The bulbs are not too fussy and will grow in any well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.

PUSCHKINIA (Striped Squill)


This remains a poor relation to the bluebells, although it looks more out of the ordinary. It is a small plant growing to 10cm in height, where 6 to 12 flowers are produced on a flowering spike. Each petal is pale silvery blue with a central blue stripe. It is completely hardy and trouble-free. Striped squill naturalizes very quickly when it is planted in its preferred growing media of a well-drained compost in full sun or light shade.

RANUNCULUS (Buttercup)


This is a unique genus which can be found in every part of the garden. They are grown by planting the tuberous roots claws downward in a 2.5cm deep planting hole in March/April. They prefer a well-drained multipurpose compost in a sunny location to grow in.

The tubers have to be dug after flowering to be stored in a dry, wood shavings over winter, before being planted once again in spring. These plants are often known as Persian buttercups. They grow up to 30cm in height. The normal flowering time is July-August and come in a large range of colours.



This rare crocus-like bulb is worth looking for if you are up for a challenge and growing something which others do not recognize. It is a very small plant, only growing up to 7.5cm in height. The flowers are produced in June-September, which are purplish in colour and have yellow centres. They look attractive but very similar to crocuses.

The leaves are long and narrow. The crowns will need protecting in winter by mulching. Spring rain can cause the bulb to rot, so will need so protection from this.



This attractive rare bulb is reasonably easy to grow. It grows up to 45cm in height. The leaves appear in late spring, which is followed by yellow, white, lilac, pink or purple flowers in early summer. It prefers to be grown in well-drained humus rich multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade. It looks exotic but it will survive over winter if it is protected by mulch being added over the crown.

SCILLA (Bluebells, Squill)

Bluebells are a common sight in gardens and woodlands, where upright flowering stalks above strap-like leaves bear dropping blue flowers. There is a wide range of scillas from dwarf winter flowering ones to traditional bluebells that flower in April-May. A wide range of flowering colours and height are prevalent with this genus.


It also has a wide range of flowering season. There are dwarf flowers that only grow to 8cm in height, and produces dark-striped pale blue flowers in February-March. The Siberian squill is a favourite, growing to 15cm in height where the blue cup-shaped flowers hang in loose clusters from March-April.

The English bluebells grow up to 25cm in height where blue bell-shaped flowers are produced in April and May. Spanish bluebells flower at the same time, but the flower can be blue, pink or white.

They prefer a well-drained, humus rich multipurpose compost in full sun or light shade.

SPARAXIS (Harlequin Flower)


This is not a bulb that you can plant and forget about. It can only be grown in a sheltered, south facing spot in a mild district. It has an unusual routine in which the corms are lifted in mid-summer once the leaves have died down. They are kept dry until the corms are planted in November.

The plant grows up to 45cm in height where the colourful starry flowers are produced in May-June. The flowers are either single coloured or have multicoloured petals and throats. It prefers to be grown in a well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun.

SPREKELIA (Jacobean lily)


This exotic bulb needs a sunny, sheltered spot to show off its flowers. It is a tender bulb that can be grown in a well-drained multipurpose compost in a mild area. It grows up to 45cm in height, where orchid-like crimson flowers are produced in June. The flowers are carried singly on top of flowering stalks. Plant bulbs in April and lift once the foliage has died back. Store in a dry wood shavings, before replanting in April.

STERNBERGIA (Autumn Daffodil)


Despite its common name, it looks nothing like a daffodil but instead looks like a crocus. Its leaves are grass-like and it blooms are wine glass shaped. The difference is that these flowers are borne on stalks and have 6 stamens instead of three found with crocuses. It grows up to 15cm in height with yellow flowers.

It flowers between September and October. Plant the bulb in July-August. Sternbergia is a difficult plant to grow needing near-perfect growing conditions of perfect drainage, protection from strong winds, and warm, dry weather in summer. The compost it is planted in needs to be alkaline as well.

TECOPHILAEA (Chilean Blue Crocus)

This is such a rare bulb, yet it is not particularly hard to grow. It has been described as one of the most beautiful of all the small bulbs. It grows up to 15cm in height, where funnel-shaped flowers are produced in March-April. Tecophilaea is best planted in September and October.


The flower shape is nothing special, but its colour is the most striking thing about the plant is the vivid blue colour of its flowers. Other varieties exist that are white-throated or deep purple in colour.

The plant likes a well-drained, sandy compost in full sun. The major problem is that it can only be grown in mild areas and that the bulb is very expensive in the few online shops in which it is listed.

TIGRIDIA (Tiger Flower)

This exotic beauty comes into bloom at the end of summer, where each flower lasts a day. This is okay as succession appears over several weeks. The major problem is that this bulb is only moderately hardy, so in most areas, the bulbs have to be planted deeply in late April. The bulbs have to be lifted in October when the leaves have withered.


Overwinter the bulbs in dry wood shavings. The beautiful flowers outer petals are large and single coloured, whilst the three inner petals are small and coloured with splashes of reds and purples. The centres of the flowers are also blotched. Tier flower is often sold as a mixture.

It prefers to be grown in a well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun, where it will grow up to 45cm high.

TRITONIA (Blazing Star)

This bulb is closely related to crocosmia and Ixia, where it shares strap-like leaves and wiry stems bearing star-like blooms of bright colours. The biggest problem is that it is not very hardy and can only be grown outdoor in a mild area.


Plant the corms in September, mulch the crowns in winter and only remove the mulch once the danger of the final frost has passed. The plant grows up to 60cm tall, where pink funnel-shaped flower are borne in late summer. The blooms are produced only on one side of the spikes. It grows well in a well-drained multipurpose compost in a sheltered location in full sun.

TULBAGHIA (Wild Garlic)


Most species of this semi-evergreen bulb are not really hardy. They need a warm sheltered spot during the growing season, and a mulch of nark to offer protection in winter. It grows up to 60 cm in height, where pale purple flowers are produced in June to August.  T. natalensis is frost hardy.

The bulbs need to be planted in April, where it prefers to be grown in a well-drained sandy multipurpose compost in full sun. Tulbaghia has good drought resistance once established.

TULIPA (Tulips)

Tulips offer a great source of subdued and brilliant colours from early to late spring. Hundreds of different varieties are available covering different height, colours and flower styles.

They are dwarf tulips which open their small flowers on 10cm stalks in early March, up to Rembrandts growing 75cm high with flowers in mid-May. The colour range from white to near back. The colours of tulips are quite fascinating, and most varieties are either single coloured (one colour throughout), blended (One colour merged with another) or bicolour (two distinct colours). This colouration is actually caused by a virus, which once demanded a high price, as they were rare.


The basic tulip is a bell, bowl or star-shaped flowers made up of shiny petals on top of a leafless flowering stalk. Usually, it is borne singly but in a few cases, the flower heads have several blooms. Like some other bulbs, the flower can be single bloom or double bloom.

The genus is split into 15 divisions, where divisions 1-11 are known as Garden Tulips with their ancestry is not known. Divisions 12-15 are Botanical Tulips, where the species or hybrids used are known.


Buy your bulbs early to get the best choice of varieties you wish to grow. Do not plant until November as planting too early can result in frost damaged growing tulips tips. Plants bulbs 15-20cm for garden tulips and 10cm for botanical tulips.

Close up of Tulip
Close up of Tulip

Normally tulips are lifted and replanted each autumn. This can be avoided if you plant the bulbs at the recommended depth and lime the compost so it is not too acidic. Using this method you can leave the bulbs undisturbed for three years. Plant tulip bulbs in well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun.

The divisions are:

Single early Tulip

Double early Tulip

Triumph Tulip

Darwin Hybrid Tulip

Single late Tulip

Lily-flowered Tulip

Fringed Tulip

Viridiflora Tulip

Rembrandt Tulip

Parrot Tulip

Double Late Tulip

Botanical Tulip.

WATSONIA (Bulge Lily)

This bulb is related to the gladiolus but its flowers are not the same. They are star-shaped that are borne on both sides of the flowering stem. It grows up to 90cm in height where long, orange flowers are produced in June-July. Watsonia will require staking to avoid any wind damage.


It is a difficult bulb to find but few suppliers exist. The main problem is that frost will kill it, so plant the corms in April/May and lift in Autumn, store in a dry frost free place. Watsonia likes to be grown in a well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun.


This plant produces crocus-like flowers in late summer or early autumn. There are one species which is hardy enough to be grown outside. The outdoor Zephyr lily grows up to 15cm in height, where white flowers with yellow centres are produced.


The flower stalks appear in large numbers above grassy leaves. April is the time to plant the bulbs. In Autumn after the leaves have died back, is the time to mulch the crown with leaf mould or bark chips. Plant in well-drained sandy multipurpose in full sun.


In this second part of the series of bulbs that can be planted in containers. You can see there are a vast number of bulbs producing beautiful coloured blooms of different shapes and forms. There are many unusual varieties that are often not found in many gardens, no matter container gardens.

In total, in this series 66 bulbs have been discussed, and now you would have no excuse not to incorporate some of these into your container garden.

As ever if you have any questions or comments you wish to make, please leave them in the comment box below.



8 thoughts on “Bulbs that can be Grown in Container, Part II-From H to Z”

  1. Hi Antonio,

    I love your very descriptive site all about the best bulb flowers to grow in containers, I can’t even pronounce some of the names but they all sound and look lovely.Do the names come from the Greek language? I like your piece on how to grow lilies, such a graceful beautiful flower that will grow better in the sun but also in the shade. The Narcissus tazetta looks a very dainty flower with nice petals I also like the RANUNCULUS (Buttercup) an unusual but distinctive flower. Well done, Fintan

    1. Hi Fintan

      Thank you got those kind comments. Latin is used as it describes the growing habits of the plant, from leaf shape and flower colour. There are so many choices but I hope to get people’s green fingers twitching, to think outside the box.

      Kind Regards


  2. 66 bulbs with a lot of color and variety here as well. For those who love incorporating different bulbs with contrasting colors to really bring out the flow in a garden, this article is an A to Z mini encyclopedia, combining both Parts I and II, clearly. I was particularly fond of the purple bulbs, such as the Hyacinth, Iris, Ixia lily, and Muscari, combined with the yellow Narcissus, and white Lilys. 

    1. Hi Todd

      Bulbs tend to be under utilised in container gardens but with a little planning you can have colours throughout the year, which cannot be said for other perennials or annuals. I am trying to get people interested in bulbs.

      Kind regards


  3. What a wonderful and helpful article. We stay in an apartment and have been wanting to spruce up our balcony with potted plants. This has given us so many ideas. We aren’t very experienced with gardening though so hope it works out. Which bulb do you think is the easiest to start with?

    1. Hi Joe

      You kind words make me blush. All bulbs are easy to grow, but I would suggest tulips and narcissi. If you follow my  planting regimes highlighted in this article.



  4. One of our favorites is the Iris, as no matter where we have been in South Africa, we have been able to grow these plants in all different types of soil.

    They give a lovely show of flowers,and pleasant greenery when not in flower.

    They also multiply quickly,the flowers last a long time, and are pleasant in a tall vase.

    Wild Garlic is very good to grow, in the herb and vegetable garden,as it protects the other plants, from insects and disease.

    In South Africa we have grown it in many types of soil,it is also very nice to have as a border in the normal flower garden.

    The purple flowers are small and dainty, and are very pleasant to the eye.

    1. Hi Robert

      Thank you for those kind words and your experience with flowers in South Africa.

      Kind regards


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