It is worth remembering that it's easy to grow bulbs, and they not only bring colour and fragrance to the spring garden, they can also make spring happen a little earlier in the house. For many of us growing a hyacinth in a glass of water, or a few crocus bulbs in one of those pots with the holes in the sides was our first gardening experience. Growing spring bulbs indoors seems to have become less popular in recent years; we tend to buy hyacinths and narcissi when they are about to flower. It’s a pity because it's easy to grow bulbs from scratch, and it's very rewarding.
The delicate, fragrant paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’) is perhaps the easiest and quickest to flower of all the bulbs you can grow indoors. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs are on sale now – shining mahogany onions, full of promise. They look particularly attractive when grown in a glass container. It's a good idea to create a layer of bulbs. Position the paperwhite narcissus bulbs in the container on a layer of pebbles or pieces of slate. The stones keep the bases of the bulbs off the bottom of the container, leaving space for the roots to develop and grow down into the water. Use more stones to anchor the bulbs. Another layer of bulbs can rest on the shoulders of the first layer of bulbs, with a few stones to keep them in position. Add water to moisten the stones and leave a little in the bottom of the container – ideally just below the bases of the lower layer of bulbs. Shoots and roots quickly develop and flowers appear in just a few weeks. The scent of paperwhite narcissus is powerful and delicious and brings a breath of spring into the home in early winter.
For most people growing spring bulbs indoors means prepared hyacinths. These easy to grow bulbs are bought and planted in early autumn and will then bloom indoors in midwinter. You need to buy them as soon as they appear in the shops. Prepared hyacinths are given a period of cold treatment before they go on sale. This is why they are called prepared. This cold treatment fools them into thinking that winter is over and now it is time to grow and bloom. The effect of the cold treatment is quickly lost if the bulbs hang around in a warm shop or home prior to planting. Choose top size bulbs, and if you are growing several prepared hyacinths in a container choose all one variety. If you mix them they may flower at different times and they are unlikely to be uniform in height. If growing them in bulb bowls or containers without drainage holes always use bulb fibre and avoid overwatering
Plant prepared hyacinths with the top third of the bulb above the surface of the compost leaving about 1cm between the bulbs. Water the compost after planting but do not saturate. Then place the bulbs in a cool dark place. Check them regularly and moisten the compost if necessary. Keep them in the dark until the shoots are well emerged from the bulbs, they should be distinctly flamed shaped and around 3cm in height. If you bring them into the light too soon the leaves will grow way above the blooms. In fact that’s the secret with easy to grow bulbs, or indeed growing any spring bulbs indoors: grow them cool, and grow them slowly. Warm conditions encourage leaves and flowers to develop before roots; results will be disappointing and the flowers may wither before they open.
Other bulbs that work particularly well indoors include Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’, Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’ and Crocus ‘Remembrance’. Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ is probably the most popular variety in Europe. It is a versatile bulb that works well in pots for early indoor decoration and lasts well in containers outside. It grows to only 15cm, with emerald-green leaves and small bright yellow daffodil flowers carries singly or two or threes on strong stems. Because it is so compact you can plant it close together in pots and it grows well in shallow containers.
Easy to Grow Spring Bulbs
VIEW SLIDE SHOW
Growing spring bulbs indoors is rewarding, fun and great for getting the kids into gardening. Which bulbs have you tried growing indoors? Have you tried a layer of bulbs? We would love to know how you’ve got on. Share your experiences below.
To find out more about spring flowering bulbs, shrubs and lawns check out my on-line gardening courses at www.my-garden-school.com and follow @AndyMcIndoe on twitter.