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Stagger Bulbs

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Want to brighten up a deck or patio? Grab a container and plant layers of bulbs that will give you three bursts of color when spring arrives. Choose bulb varieties that flower a few weeks apart, such as crocus, tulips, and daffodils, which will bloom in rotation for up to six weeks.

To fill a container that's 12 inches in diameter and 12 to 14 inches deep, you'll want about 9 crocus, 7 tulip, and 5 daffodil bulbs. First add a 1-inch layer of pebbles to the bottom of the container (make sure there's a drainage hole or drill one out). Add 4 inches of potting soil, and mix in a tablespoon of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Place the daffodil bulbs with their flat, root end down and pointed end up, making sure the sides aren't touching. Add another 1-inch layer of potting soil, covering the bulbs to their tips. Place the row of tulip bulbs so they're staggered over the daffodils and not directly on top. Cover with soil; repeat steps with crocus bulbs. Cover the "sandwiched" bulbs with 1 to 2 inches of mulch, and water thoroughly. Keep soil moist throughout the fall, then let the container winter over (in an unheated garage or shed in climates with very cold winters) until warm spring rains encourage the first shoots to appear.

Recommended Planting Depths:

A. Dutch Crocus: 1 to 2 inches

B. Red Emperor Tulip: 3 to 4 inches

C. King Alfred Daffodil: 4 to 5 inches

Dutch Crocus

Photo by Corbis

(Crocus vernus species) This early-spring bloomer flowers in shades of lavender and purple; grows up to 4 inches tall.

A: Plant 1 to 2 inches deep.

Red Emperor Tulip

Photo by Getty Images

(Tulipa 'Red Emperor') A mid-season bloomer with a large, dramatic red flower with a black “eye”; grows up to 20 inches tall.

B: Plant 3 to 4 inches deep.

King Alfred Daffodil

Photo by Corbis

(Narcissus dahlia 'King Alfred') A late-spring bloomer with a large trumpet; grows up to 20 inches tall.

C: Plant 4 to 5 inches deep.