How to Recycle Hyacinth, Tulip, Daffodil and Other Spring Bulbs into the Garden

Credit: Flickr / Roberto Verzo


Q: My son gave me a pot with five pink hyacinth bulbs that have bloomed and are now falling over. What is necessary for me to do so that I might be able to plant the five bulbs in the fall?

Potted tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring bulb flowers are widely available January through April and can be relied upon for a good show indoors. But, generally, once the show’s over, it’s over.  At this point, it’s okay to toss them out just as you would a spent bouquet of cut flowers. Still, many people want to know if they can plant forced bulbs in the garden to re-bloom there in future years.

The answer is yes, no or maybe! Sometimes it’s worth a try. Sometimes it’s not. Some bulbs are naturally better at “coming back” than others, whether originally planted in the garden or transplanted from a pot. Daffodils and crocus are superb re-bloomers; tulips, generally, are not. Second: after bloom, bulbs must recharge their energy to fuel next year’s growth and bloom. This recharging process occurs during the six weeks immediately following bloom when bulb plants’ leaves are busy doing photosynthesis to stockpile energy (stored food) for next year’s growth and bloom. In the pot, bulbs are often depleted by early blooming. Tulip leaves in particular typically peter out quickly in the pot, turning yellow and withering, thus rarely having enough oomph to bloom again. Daffodil and crocus leaves last longer, thus are better candidates for re-bloom. Hyacinths may re-bloom too. Best results getting potted blooms to re-bloom in the garden are achieved by planting the potted bulb plants into the garden as quickly after bloom as possible. As soon as the soil is thawed and workable they can be planted out to establish themselves and die back in place. Often it takes two seasons for exhausted forced bulbs to fully recharge for re-bloom.

With all that said, if you’re up for a project, it’s always worth a try! If the weather in your area is still dropping close to freezing when you want to plant out your potted bulbs, acclimate the plants to outdoor weather in a protected but unheated spot for a day or two before planting outdoors. Once established outdoors, the cold or even sudden snows shouldn’t bother them. As with other spring-flowering bulbs, once planted out, potted bulbs will just deal with the weather as it comes.