As the sparkle of Christmas passes, spring bulbs are just the thing to keep your spirits up.
Containers of forced bulbs – specially prepared to flower before nature intends – will bring spring colour a little earlier than they would do if grown outdoors.
Don't worry if you didn't plant bulbs in autumn – forced hyacinths, snowdrops, narcissus, tulips and amaryllis are widely available in winter and simple to repot before they flower. Select pots of firm, healthy bulbs that have just started to shoot and enjoy watching them shoot and enjoy watching them mature and slowly blossom over several weeks.
More advice for growing spring bulbs:
- How to create a spring bulb tray
- Layering spring bulbs in a pot (video)
- Nine spring bulbs to force in autumn
Discover seven of the best spring bulb displays for indoors, below.
Muscari's diminutive size makes it easy to cram several into a tin or small container. Make sure there are holes for drainage, fill three quarters full with bulb fibre, pop in a cluster of bulbs and mulch with garden moss. Place in a cool, light position and don't allow to dry out. Grape hyacinths also look fabulous in white.
Blooming for three or four weeks, amaryllis flowers can be red, pink, white, orange or even boldly striped. Grow in compost, or a vase of water. Place the bulb on top of pebbles, just above the water level, with a discreet stake to support stems as they grow. Move to a cool spot when it starts to flower and deadhead when spent.
Elegant paperwhite narcissi
Paperwhite narcissus are some of the easiest bulbs to grow indoors – simply plant into compost and mulch garden moss. Use a deep container that will hold twiggy sticks as plant supports if needed, or grow at the base of a tall vase in a few centimetres of pebbles. They're not hardy so start with new bulbs each year.
Seek out multi-stemmed hyacinth bulbs for maximum prettiness and perfume. They can be displayed in water, even if they were grown in compost, by carefully washing the soil away from the roots. The container should hold the bulb just above the water, so keep it topped up to this level. Plant up several in a sturdy bowl, using bulb fibre if there are no drainage holes. Plant outside when spent.
Tulips sold for growing indoors will probably be the shorter, species type and less likely to go floppy. They come in a wide range of shades and colours and are the perfect reminder of warmer temperatures and sunny skies to come. Replant the bulb at the same depth in the container, being careful not to damage the roots. They'll look fabulous in a shallow bowl or basket on a table top.
Small pots of snowdrops are readily available, or if they're in your garden they can be carefully lifted with a trowel and replanted. They'll bring a little bit of spring to a cool, bright spot indoors. Try covering an old pot in bark strips or plant in shallow trays or wooden boxes. Remember they need good drainage. Replant them outside when they fade.
Any pot will do, but you can't go wrong with a smart row of terracotta. Place three iris bulbs in 10cm pots of compost and top with a decorative layer of grit. Iris have a shorter flowering time than some bulbs, so keep them cool and moist to extend the display. Rotate the pots regularly to prevent them from leaning towards the sun, and allow foliage to die back before replanting outside. Try Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' for its delicate markings.