Plant a Pot of Gold

This might look like an expensive garden project, but really it's a cheap way to get lots of impact.
Charlie Thigpen

One bag of daffodil bulbs, one pot, and a couple of bags of topsoil can transform a corner of your yard into a garden focal point and turn an ordinary container into a bounty of blooms. Planted this autumn, daffodils will reward you with some of spring's most endearing flowers.

Daffodils, sprinkled in abundance all across the Southern landscape, officially mark the end of winter. Many colonies have naturalized from gardens planted long ago. There's no doubt they do well in the ground, but don't overlook their power to excel in containers too.

Most garden centers, nurseries, and mail-order catalogs offer daffodil bulbs each fall. You can usually buy them in bulk to reduce your costs. A bag of 50 bulbs will fill a big pot, and you'll still have several left to sprinkle around its base. They range in color from yellow to white, and some sport orange to pink or multicolored trumpets. Selections such as 'King Alfred,' 'Thalia,' 'Barrett Browning,' 'Ice Follies,' and 'Carlton' are all dependable bloomers.

When buying bulbs, make sure they're fat and fleshy like a ripe onion. Avoid dried out, hollowed, or moldy ones. Buy bulbs as soon as they arrive in stores, because those that sit on a shelf or in boxes for long periods may spoil.

If you don't have a large container, you can plant bulbs in several smaller pots to dress up a deck or front porch. Small pots can be moved around strategically once daffodils bloom. If you're in the market for a container, select one that will look nice with your house and garden. (For example, a white Chippendale container would look out of place around a rustic home or in a woodland garden.)

Use a good quality potting soil to fill the container, and make sure it has sufficient drainage holes. Cover the holes with pot shards, gravel, or a paper coffee filter to allow water to flow freely through the pot while holding the soil in.

In October or November, plant daffodils 3 to 4 inches deep with the pointed end up; space them 3 to 4 inches apart for a nice look. Mix a little Bulb Booster into the soil to give plants a head start. The bulbs will need little water until foliage begins to emerge; then keep them evenly moist until they bloom. If the flowers begin to lean in one direction, rotate the pot occasionally to keep them straight and upright. When the daffodils are through blooming, they can be planted in the yard or left in the pot. Don't cut any of the straplike foliage until it turns brown and is lifeless.

"Plant a Pot of Gold" is from the October 2002 issue of Southern Living.