Pot’s Growing On: plant indoor bulbs for Christmas(ish) colour

It’s the time of year when you can sit back, put your feet up… and pick up a bulb catalogue cos there’s no rest for a gardener! I’ve ordered all of my bulbs now to be planted up by mid October at the latest, except for tulips that go in during November.

This weekend I bought my usual set of heat treated Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’ bulbs (see a previous year’s flowers) and have planted them up into a very free draining compost in pots with the bulb half sticking out of the surface. I’m following advice given by Jim and Carol on Beechgrove garden to plant each bulb in individual pots. Their reason for this was to be able to pick the same sized flowers when ready and then display them. In the past I bunged them into one larger pot together and while they flowered, they did all veer off in crazy directions – which I quite liked I might add, but it meant the flower heads weren’t as strong.

All of the Hyacinths will be put into the cool and dark of my shed for a little over two months until the flower heads are about 7 – 8 cm tall. Bringing them inside at this point when they’ll suddenly colour up and rocket into growth in the warmth and light.

At this time of year I’ve also forced my Hippeastrum bulbs into dormancy by stopping watering until the leaves die off (if they aren’t eaten by slugs first when kept outside in summer). I’ll keep them dry until late October when I’ll begin watering again, hopefully sparking the flowers to arrive for Christmas alongside the Hyacinths.

In reality, I can never get them to flower at Christmas time. To do so you really need to plan much more carefully for exact timing and conditions and ideally, grow many more bulbs to give more chances. I don’t really care though, I just want them to flower in the depths of winter.

As for the rest of our garden, I’m not adding any new bulbs this year. I’ve added so many over the last five years that we have enough. Now comes the fun bit of watching them clump up naturally and then dividing and moving around.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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