While there's not much in flower in winter, some spring bulbs are particularly hardy and will flower from late winter, adding a much-needed burst of colour. Winter bulbs are hardy species, and are used to pushing through snow and ice and flowering in the most unlikely conditions.
Plant winter bulbs outside when they're dormant, typically from late spring to late summer. As a general rule, plant bulbs two to three times the depth of the bulb itself. Water well and allow to drain, it's a good idea to leave a marker next to where you planted them so you don't accidentally dig them up. Left in the soil, winter bulbs will gradually bulk up and appear as a flowering mass. However you may want to lift and divide large clumps every three to five years.
For winter bulbs indoors, plant a eight to 13 weeks before you want them to flower. It's a good idea to plant successionally on a weekly basis so you have a continuous stream of flowers for indoor displays throughout the winter months.
Choose from daffodils bred to bloom sooner than other varieties, bulbous flowers native to cooler regions such as Eastern Europe, and heat-treated bulbs you can force indoors for seasonal displays. We list eight winter-flowering bulbs, below.
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Want more plant ideas and inspiration for winter? Discover the Christmas plants we love to grow, in our listicle guide.
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) bears bright, golden yellow flowers, with a characteristic green ruff, in early February. Technically they grow from tubers rather than bulbs. They look best grown en masse in lawns and under trees, where they combine well with snowdrops. Height x Spread: 80cm x 50cm
Snowdrops are some of the first bulbs of the year to emerge, often as early as January. These hardy bulbs will even push through snow and ice. H x S: 10cm x 10cm
Its common name is glory of the snow, which gives you an idea of how hardy this little flower is. Native to Eastern Europe, Chionodoxa is one of the first bulbs to flower and can look spectacular when grown en masse. It’s a great choice for naturalising in lawns, particularly beneath trees. H x S: 15cm x 10cm
While most daffodils flower in spring, some have been bred to flower earlier in the year, with varieties such as 'Ice Follies' and 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' blooming as early as late January.
Only suitable for growing indoors, paperwhite narcissi bears elegant flowers that fill the room with fragrance. You can buy them at most garden centres, or force the bulbs yourself. Simply plant them in a vase or shallow bowl on top of a layer of gravel. Add water to reach the top of the gravel layer only. The bulbs will happily grow and flower without soil. H x S: 40cm x 10cm
Another winter-flowering bulb for indoor displays, Amaryllis (hippeastrum) bears large, trumpet-shaped flowers. H x S: 40cm x 20cm
Hardy cyclamen, Cyclamen coum, are a welcome sight as the flowers push up through the soil in the middle of winter. Grow them beneath trees or in pots with evergreens or other early flowering plants, like winter heather. H x S: 8cm x 10cm
Normally flowering in spring, hyacinth is another bulb that can be forced indoors for winter. Colourful and richly perfumed, there are plenty of reasons to grow hyacinths. Buy them at your local florists or garden centre, or watch our video on how to force your own hyacinths for Christmas.