Bulbs For The Houseplant Beginner

Bulbs For The Houseplant Beginner

Bulbs, especially spring ones, are only passing visitors to the house, so why not plant some up in small pots. A single hyacinth or two or three daffodils can then be placed in existing bowls or troughs of green plants to bring a little extra colour on a dull winter’s day.

Forcing bulbs

Forcing bulbs to flower is an art that can be easily learned. There are only a few basic rules to follow. Always buy top quality bulbs. Inferior bulbs will not flower or will produce a weak bloom. If the varieties recommended are not available, consult your local gardening centre.

Most bulbs require a period in the dark after planting in compost, in the late autumn or early winter. Either plunge the bowls in the garden under peat or ashes or leave in a cool, dark cupboard for about two months. Take out the bowl and cover it with a sheet of newspaper. Remove the paper when the bulbs begin tosprout and replace it with a cone of newspaper for about a week; then remove that. Keep the bulbs moist at all times but don’t over-water. Tip surplus water out of the bowl. Never try to force the flower by heating on a radiator nor to force bulbs twice – it doesn’t work. Plant them out in the garden after flowering.


Hyacinth bulbs are one of the favourites for forcing. By careful planting (and date labelling) you can have flowers from Christmas until spring. For early flowering, buy what nurserymen call prepared bulbs. If planted in August, theywill flowerin December. For bulbs you wantto flower from January onwards ask for good ‘top size’ bulbs. Hyacinths can be mixed, but to make sure that they flower together plant bulbs of the same colour in one pot. Hyacinths also do well when grown in water. Fill a hyacinth vase to about 1 cm G in) below the bulb and watch the bulb sending out its roots to look for moisture.

Daffodils and narcissi

Daffodils and narcissi also force well, but do not flower as early as hyacinths. Plant two layers in a pot to make a really concentrated display of blooms. Suitable varieties are Carlton, Golden Harvest and Fortune daffodils. For narcissi, try Geranium, Cragford and Scarlet Elegance.


Tulips must be left much longer in the dark. Don’t start to force them before mid-January. The scented doubles like Peach Blossom and Orange Nassau, force well. Both tulips and daffodils need to be staked when in bloom to stop them drooping.

Small bulbs

Some of the small bulbs can be easily forced, such as iris reticulata, all the crocuses, scillas and chionodoxa. Plant them close together and move them out into the garden immediately after the flowers have faded.

Natural flowering

There are also a number of bulbs that will flower naturally in the house or conservatory. These are all members of the lily family—amaryllis, valotta, nerine and lilium. They all need to be planted permanently in pots and not disturbed too often. They also require a rest period after flowering when they should be allowed to dry off completely.

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