Amaryllis - dark burgundy red

How To Bring Colour Into The Home With A Bowl Of Spring Bulbs

Bring the scent of spring indoors with a pot of fragrant bulbs

Nothing brings the promise of spring quite like a pot of spring bulbs in the house; even better if they are scented. Place bowls around the house; fill every room with delicious scent. If you plant several bowls a week apart you will have a succession of scent and colour to brighten up a dismal winter.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

These stunning bulbs should flower 6 – 8 weeks after being planted.

Choose a pot which is just slightly larger than the bulb and half fill with good quality potting compost mixed with a handful of horticultural grit, to improve the drainage; make sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom.

Place the bulb on the compost so that 2/3rd of the bulb will be covered with compost and 1/3rd will be out of the compost and above the rim of the pot. Fill to within 1.25cm (1/2”) of the rim with compost. Make sure the compost is firmed in well around the bulb as once it is in full flower it can become quite top heavy; a heavy pot can also help balance out the weight of the flower.

Water well and stand in a warm light position around 20C (68F). Don’t over-water otherwise it could rot.

Feed fortnightly with a weak solution of balanced fertiliser.

Keep it just damp; it can tolerate drying out between watering.

Once the flowers have faded cut the stem off just above the top of the bulb and switch the feed to a high potash fertiliser, such as liquid tomato food. This will build up the flower buds for next year. Once the leaves have started to fade cut them off and dry out the bulb ready for planting again next year. Leave the bulb somewhere cool and dry for at least 8 – 10 weeks before bringing it into bloom again.

Hyacinth

These gorgeously scented bulbs are an absolute must in the house at Christmas. They come in a lovely array of colours; blues, pinks, red, white, peach, gold, dark purple and deep burgundy.

The hyacinth which are sold for Christmas flowering have been forced into flowering earlier than they would normally. They are prepared by placing the bulbs in differing temperatures for between 6 – 8 weeks. Take care when handling these bulbs are they can bring on an allergic reaction so always wear gloves when planting and choosing them in the garden centre.

Plant them in early October for flowering at Christmas.

Choose a shallow wide container at least 7.5cm (3”) deep; one with a drainage hole is preferable but not necessary as long as you remember not to over-water.

Fill the container to within 2.5cm (1”) of the rim with good quality potting compost mixed with a handful of horticultural grit, to improve the drainage. Push the bulbs into the compost until the top of the bulb is level with the rim of the pot. Fill in any gaps with compost to within 1.25cm (1/2”) of the rim.

Water well then place somewhere cool, 10C (50F), and dark. It may be necessary to place them in a thick bin liner or cover with a box to completely exclude the light.

At the end of November bring them into a light warm spot; they should then flower about 3 weeks later. Don’t place them somewhere too hot otherwise they will soon go over. Cover the top of the compost with moss or chipped bark to retain the moisture.

Keep them just damp; if they are too wet they could easily rot.

Feed with a weak solution of a balanced fertiliser every fortnight.

Once they have finished flowering cut off the flowering spikes and switch the feed to a high potash fertiliser, such as tomato feed, this will build up the flower spikes for next year.

Once the leaves have died back take them out of the pot and leave them to dry. Keep them somewhere dry and cool over the summer. Plant in a sunny well-drained spot in the garden in the autumn and they will flower the following spring.

Hyacinth - pink - close-up

Muscari (Grape Hyacinth)

These little flowers are slightly fragrant and come in shades of lavender-blue ranging from the deepest purple-blue to the palest lilac, rose and white. They are ideal for a small decorative container. Plant them at the beginning of October for blooms at Christmas.

Choose a container which is at least 7.5cm (3”) deep; one with a drainage hole is preferable but you can use a decorative pot without, just make sure you don’t over-water.

Fill the pot to within 1.25cm (1/2”) of the rim with good quality potting compost mixed with a handful of horticultural grit, to improve drainage.

Push the bulbs into the compost, keeping them close together but not quite touching, so the tips are just showing and are level with the rim of the pot. Fill in any gaps with compost. Water well.

They need a period of cold, 4C (40F), and dark for 10 weeks to initiate flowering so place them in a thick bin liner or cover with a box to exclude any light. Make sure they are not near any ripening fruit as the ethylene gas produced by the fruit can damage the bulbs. Keep them just and so damp.

After 10 weeks bring them into a cool position, 4 – 18C (40 – 65F), which has low light levels. Gradually move them into a position out of direct sunlight. Make sure they are not too hot otherwise they will go over very quickly.

Keep them just damp and feed fortnightly with a weak solution of a balanced fertiliser.

When they have finished flowering cut off the flowering spikes and switch the feed to a high potash fertiliser, such as tomato feed, this will make the flower spikes for next year.

Once the foliage has died back take the bulbs out of the compost and store somewhere cool and dry over the summer.

Plant out in the garden in the autumn.

Muscari - dark blue

Narcissus - Paper White

These give off a strong heady scent which is not to everyone’s taste but a large bowl stuffed full does look gorgeous and can perfume a whole room. This variety should flower 6 – 8 weeks after planting whereas the normal garden Narcissus can take 16 – 18 weeks.

As they grow quite tall choose a fairly deep wide container; if the container is too slim they can become top heavy. A container with a drainage hole is preferable otherwise make sure you don’t over-water.

Fill with good quality potting compost mixed with a handful of horticultural grit, to improve drainage, to within 2.5cm (1”) of the rim. Push in the bulbs so the tips of the bulbs are just below the rim of the pot and cover with more compost to within 1.25cm (1/2”) of the rim.

Keep them just damp.

Place in a warm, 10 -15C (50 – 60F), light position. They should flower in about 4 – 6 weeks.

If they are in a room which is too warm they soon go over and tend to grow weak and leggy and unable to support themselves.

These are only grown for one season so can be discarded after flowering.

Narcissus -Tete-a-tete

These miniature daffodils are ideal for a small container. Planting them at the beginning of September should produce blooms around Christmas-time.

These need a cool period of 16 – 18 weeks to initiate flowering. Keep them in the dark at a temperature of 1.6 – 7C (35 – 45F). If they are not kept dark they can start growing before they are fully chilled.

After the cooling period keep them at a temperature of 15.5C (60F) in indirect light. Once they have reached a height of 4 – 11.25cm (3 – 5”) move to a warm, 20C (68F), sunny position until the buds start to show some colour. Once they have started to colour move to a cool spot in indirect light; this will prolong the flowering season. If they are too warm they soon become weak and leggy and are unable to support themselves.

Keep just damp and feed fortnightly with a weak solution of balanced fertiliser.

When they have finished flowering cut off the flowering spikes and switch the feed to one with a high potash content, such as tomato fertiliser, this forms the flower spikes for next year. Let the foliage die down naturally; when it has gone brown remove the bulbs from the container, let them dry out and keep them somewhere cool and dry until it is time to plant them again next autumn.

Narcissus - Tete-a-tete

Garden narcissus, crocus, dwarf iris and tulips need to be planted in late summer and kept in the dark below 10C (50F) in order to initiate flowering. They can then be brought into the house 3 – 4 weeks before Christmas. Unless you have a cool basement it can be quite difficult to maintain cool temperatures for a prolonged period in early autumn. Like all the above bulbs they need planting in good quality potting compost mixed with horticultural grit and kept just damp.

Crocus - purple

If you want to know more about growing spring flowering bulbs contact our Outdoor Plant department or browse our blog articles.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas