Want to add floral colour in winter, or add exuberance to your home at Christmas?
Try growing indoor bulbs. They look fantastic in bloom on your table or mantelpiece for festive decoration, or merely to add cheery colour in the dark, winter months.
Plant indoor bulbs such as Hyacinths, Hippeastrum (commonly called Amaryllis), daffodil varieties such dwarf ‘Tete-a-tete’, or sweetly scented Narcissus ‘Ziva' or ‘Grand Soleil d’ Or’.
They can all be forced into flower indoors between 8-12 weeks after planting...and that means ordering them for arrival in September for a Christmas display.
Bulbs need to go through a period of dormancy (rest) before flowering successfully. You can give them this artificially – leaving them in a cool (and dark – in the case of hyacinths) place for a length of time and then bringing them into the light.
Planting Indoor Bulbs
You’ve received your bulbs. What next?
For hyacinths fill a 20cm (8in) pot with bulb compost and insert 3 hyacinth bulbs in triangle formation, so that when filled to the top the tips of the bulbs are showing. Only water if soil is particularly dry. If you leave a gap between the soil level and the top of the pot, you can add some decorative stones on top. Check regularly to see if the soil has not dried out, and water if need be. The soil should be moist but not sitting in water.
Place in a cool, dark place for 10 weeks (artificial winter) and bring into a warm, light position once the flower buds emerge. Water well. (Generally - for Christmas, plant third week of September, and bring into light position, on 1 December. This may vary according to variety – so read plant instructions for individual variety).
For Hippeastrum (commonly called amaryllis) fill a 10-12cm (4-5 in) pot with bulb compost and insert the bulb so that when filled to the top, half the bulb is showing. Only water if soil is particularly dry. If you leave a gap between the soil level and the top of the pot, you can add some decorative stones on top. Check regularly to see if the soil has not dried out, and water if need be. On the other hand the soil should be moist but not sitting in water.
Place in a cool place for around 8 weeks and bring into a warm position at the beginning of December. Water well.
For daffodils fill a shallow but wide 20cm (8 in) bowl with bulb compost so that bulb tips are just below the surface. You can pack daffodil bulbs close together. Only water if soil is particularly dry.
Place in a cool place for around 8 weeks. Check regularly to see if the soil has not dried out, and water if need be. The soil should be moist but not sitting in water and bring into a warm position at the beginning of December. Bring into a warm position at the beginning of December. Water well.
NB- If your bulbs are flowering too soon for the desired date, or are too far off from flowering on the desired date, you can delay or bring on bulbs to a small extent coming into flower.
Delay by cooling the soil temperature. You can plunge into cool soil by day. If this is December make sure you don’t do this on a day where temperatures are below or near to freezing. If you can’t avoid this, cover the plant with a cloche.
Speed up flowering, by placing pots in an even lighter position like a window sill or in the conservatory.
After the bulbs have flowered you can plant indoor narcissus and hyacinths outside in a sheltered position.
Hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulbs are usually discarded after Christmas but if you want to keep them for another year feed and water the bulbs regularly to keep them growing until September. Stop watering from September and let the foliage die back. Place the bulb in a cool frost-free place for 1 or 2 months and then start them back into life in a warm, well lit room, ready to start their flowering cycle again.
In their first year Hippeastrum amaryllis are reliable Christmas flowers but they’ll often flower at a different time in subsequent years; with blooms appearing at any time from late winter to mid spring.