How to plant a bulb lasagne

Looking to create your own bulb lasagne and unsure where to start? With help from expert gardener Arthur Parkinson, we’ve broken the process down into three easy steps so you can make your own at home.

Layering bulbs in pots for a continuous succession of flowers is a planting technique coined by Dutch bulb experts called a ‘bulb lasagne’ or ‘lasagne planting’. This clever method will give you months of dazzling spring displays from late February all the way through to May, with each flower coming into bloom just as the latter begins to fade.

The largest and latest flowering bulb gets planted at the deepest level, with the smallest and earliest in the top layer. The shoots of the lower-level flowers bend around anything they hit and keep on growing up through the soil.

Step 1 – planting tulips

Your first layer of bulbs that go in the lasagne are tulips. These can be planted as deep as 11-12 inches.

Always plant pointy end up: bulbs have a point and a flat bottom, with the flat representing the bottom and the point representing the top.

For a nice full display, your bulbs can be planted around 1-2 inches apart ensuring that they’re not touching each other or the side of the pot. If you get one bad tulip then it can spread a fungal disease to all the other bulbs they are touching.

Tulip bulbs that are planted in pots need to be purchased every year. The heat in the pot causes the bulbs to create baby bulbs which consume all the energy of the mother bulb, stopping it from flowering as well again the next year. Other bulbs like hyacinths, crocuses and irises are worth keeping each year and replanting.

Avoid planting too many bulbs in the centre of your pot if you are adding a pot topper like cardoon or kale. The more pot toppers you use, the fewer tulip bulbs you should use. Think about everything pushing upwards.

Add a minimum of 2 inches of compost on top of the tulip layer and smooth it down.

Our favourite tulips to plant

Tulip ‘Brown Sugar’ from www.sarahraven.com

Tulip ‘Cairo’ from www.sarahraven.com

Tulip ‘Black Parrot’ from www.sarahraven.com

Step 2 – laying hyacinths and muscari

Then in goes the hyacinths and muscari which will flower first in March followed by the tulips in April. As a hyacinth bulb is very substantial, you don’t need to plant as many. Scatter the muscari alongside these to create a natural pool of blue and purple in your display.

Try to use a different layout pattern for each tier so that the bulbs on the top layer aren’t directly above the ones below.

At this stage, you could also experiment with adding Dutch irises which will allow the pot to continue flowering into June, and planting crocuses around the edge of your container for extra blooms at the end of February into March.

Add another layer of compost on top and firm it down.

Bulbs to layer for a pop of spring colour

Hyacinth ‘Dark Dimension’ from www.farmergracy.co.uk

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’ from www.farmergracy.co.uk

Hyacinth ‘Anastacia’ from www.sarahraven.com

Muscari latifolium ‘Grape hyacinth’ from www.farmergracy.co.uk

Crocus ‘Flower Record’ from www.farmergracy.co.uk

Crocus ‘Spring Beauty’ from www.sarahraven.com

Step 3 – adding your toppers

To add the finishing touches to your bulb lasagne consider adding a layer of kale, cardoons, fennel or violas. These will give your pot some cheerful colour and interest over winter until your smaller bulbs begin to bloom.

Make a very small hollow in the middle of your pot and place the cardoon in. With any plant you’re planting, it is extremely critical that you firm it down well. This will ensure that it cannot be lifted if there is a frost. The kale, fennel or violas can then be added around the sides of your pot.

Water on planting, and then regularly in the first weeks when the roots are forming. Don’t let your compost dry out.

Toppers that add winter interest

Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon) from www.sarahraven.com

Kale ‘Curly Scarlet’ from www.sarahraven.com

Kale ‘Redbor’ from www.sarahraven.com

A few helpful tips

Typically, larger containers produce more dramatic displays as spring flowers often look best when grown en masse.

Use your imagination when thinking about containers and explore a range of reclaimed materials and items that could be reused in your garden. Websites like Gumtree and eBay are great for finding beautiful and unique containers, particularly if you’re on a smaller budget.

Drainage holes are essential as you do not want to waterlog your soil. As long as a bulb has drainage, it will grow and flower. When the water can’t escape and sits at the bottom of the pot your flowers will become overwatered and rot. These holes then need to be covered with pebbles to keep them from becoming clogged.

With his unrivalled ability to grow gorgeous, deeply coloured gardens in raised beds and planters, Arthur Parkinson has quickly become known as the UK’s rising star of the gardening world. Watch his first-ever online course where Arthur shares his expert knowledge, flair and influences for creative container gardening, teaching you how to turn even the smallest of outdoor spaces into a beautiful haven full of colour.

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