The Q&A Archives: Avoiding Frozen Container Bulbs

Question: I live in Ocean City, MD, on the Eastern Shore. The Assawoman Bay is my backyard, and the Atlantic Ocean is just across the penninsula. My deck has a southern exposure. The air here is humid, and contains salt. Our night temperatures are in the twenties now, sometimes in the teens. Wind chill lowers temps on average about 10 degrees. Daytime temps are running in the 40s and 30s. My question: is it too late for me to plant tulips? They will be in large pots on my deck. Allison Bartlett Ocean City, MD

Answer: I think it is too late to plant tulips in pots that will be kept outdoors in temperatures that fall below freezing. You run the risk of freezing the bulbs in containers exposed to the weather you describe. If you want to do this next year, I would suggest planting the bulbs in smaller pots and water thoroughly. Then bury the pots up to the rim in a bid outdoors and cover with 4-6 inches of soil plus a 4-6 inch blanket of an insulating mulch. Uncover them early in the spring when the ground has thawed and place in the larger pot for growth and subsequent bloom.

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