Plants for Pots

From Trevor Nottle

Winter has the reputation of being a pretty dull month flower-wise in gardens but it need not be if careful consideration is given to choosing early spring bulbs of the smaller kinds that can easily find a home in a collection of pots. Potted as early as possible – so order early is the guiding rule – most small bulbs will flower earlier in pots than if grown in the ground. Good candidates for such treatment are the dwarf and miniature narcissus (daffodils), scillas, species tulips, crocus,

 snowdrops (galanthus), tropaeolum species, cyclamen species and chionodoxa. Some of these may not be familiar so google them to see how lovely they are. Cool growing conditions are a pre-requisite for success but all need bright light to maintain bulbs in good condition.

pots 1 web


Tropaeolum brachyceras is a small tuberous nasturtium from Chile. By habit it is a low scrambling, twining plant with diminutive four-leaf clover type leaves. As it grows in damp mossy banks in habitat it is best grown in a potting mix with an extra 30% drainage material such as perlite and vermiculate added and mixed in thoroughly. These plants have the odd habit of sometimes sending new growth out via the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. To take account of this peculiarity it is useful to double pot the plants ie. place one pot containing the tubers inside another somewhat larger and the space between loosely packed with vermiculite and perlite. After flowering in mid-Winter the plant will die back at which point it should be dried off and kept dry until the following April when black wispy new growth will commence. The tubers respond well to feeding while the plants are in active growth. I use a fertiliser mix that is formulated for Mediterranean bulbs (Tupelo Grove).

Galanthus elwesii – the snowdrop, the real McCoy, and while not so easy to obtain it is most certainly available from specialist bulb growers by mail-order. This particular snowdrop from Turkey is the largest of all and is the most easily grown. As a pot plant it does well, especially if grown as cool as possible in a sheltered but brightly lit corner. The bulbs increase quite well and the plants also produce seed pods which, if just buried under the surface of the potting soil, will germinate without fuss the next winter. They will take about 3 years to reach flowering size. Like all bulbs snowdrops need feeding while they are growing.

Narcissus fernandesii – is a genuine jonquil, an all yellow cluster-flowered narcissus with glorious sweet perfume. It is also rather small, much smaller than common every-day ‘jonquils’ such as Paper-white and Soliel d’Or, which are more correctly known as tazetta’s. These small jonquils are found in wet pasture land in the high mountains of central and northern Spain. They like to have wet feet while they are growing so standing the pots containing them in a saucer filled with water is a good approximation of their habitat conditions. Once the flowers have finished the water can be drained off and the bulbs gradually allowed to dry off.