The Buzz

Early Spring Color in a Shady Container Garden


 Most all winter bedding plants need at least four hours of full sun to do well.  Theses plants include pansies, violas, cabbage, kale, dusty miller, and parsley. At this point, the best options for a shady space are spring bulbs.

Memphis Botanic Garden has a container garden in mostly shade. To get as much show as possible, we use a layering style of planting bulbs in the containers. 

Fill the container half way with a well-draining potting mix. A container half filled with soil is ready for the first layer. Lay out the first layer of bulbs and cover with mix. Repeat this process for two more layers, and the container should be full.

Late tulips with cool pink flowers are set in, with half-inch of space between each bulb. We cover bulbs with soil, then we are ready for the next layer.  Purple hyacinth make up the second layer. The orientation above the tulips does not have to be perfect. The tulips will bend and grow around the hyacinth bulbs.  

The rest of the container is filled with potting mix. Purple or blue muscari bulbs are pushed into the potting mix about two inches deep. Watering in completes the container. This container should show color or give off fragrance for at least a month. 

 First the muscari will bloom and lead you into the hyacinths. The hyacinth's purple flower will also have a strong sweet smell. Ending off with the late tulip will stretch out the season.

Cool colors were used in this example container. Yellows and oranges can be selected by using daffodils, tulips, and crocus bulbs. Bulbs have either early-season, mid-season, or late-season flowering times. They also grow to different heights. 

Using this bulb information and forming color schemes can make an impressive show of color and smell for containers in the shade.

By Jeff Reynolds, Horticulturist 

Posted by Memphis Botanic Garden at 6:00 AM


For updates and more!

Enhancing lives by connecting people with plants to increase awareness and appreciation of our environment.


Central Daylight Time Hours:
9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Central Standard Time (Winter) Hours:
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Have a question?

Daily Garden Admission

Adults $10.00
Seniors (62 & over) $8.00
Children (2-12) $5.00
Children (under 2) FREE
Members FREE
* Handicapped Accessible

Group Visits



We are located at:
750 Cherry Road
Memphis, TN 38117
(Between Park & Southern)

Directions & Parking