Bring the outdoors in with a host of spectacular autumn and winter flowering bulbs which can be enjoyed in your home in a vase or pot. When the weather turns chilly and jobs to do in the garden become fewer, a bit of indoor gardening with indoor flowering bulbs is a satisfying way to keep your fingers green and makes a lovely little winter project!
Growing certain bulb varieties indoors is easy and also a brilliant way to introduce vibrant splashes of colour and scent to your home interior. Plus, because the plants are live, the flowers last much longer than if they were cut.
There are various bulbs which you can grow successfully indoors, even without any pre-chilling, preparation or faff. Here are our top three:
1) Narcissus tazetta 'Paperwhite Ziva'
The distinctive, powerful scent of Paperwhites is reason enough to grow these bulbs in your home. But as a double whammy you also get an impressive display of pearly white blooms which look opulent and fresh in any interior.
Native to Israel, these special Narcissi are adapted to high temperatures and will not tolerate frost, so they can’t be planted outside. Ideally suited to growing indoors, simply pot them up and position them in the warmth of your home in autumn and they will soon spring into action, typically blooming during the festive season.
Paperwhites are not fussy when it comes to soil type. As a one-season wonder they don’t require a lot of nutrients and will grow happily in a multipurpose compost or even on a bed of gravel in a vase. Their two main requirements are water and light. Plant them in a well-lit part of your home which receives plenty of natural light during the day, and check they have a good level of moisture in the soil every day.
How to grow Paperwhites
Narcissus tazetta ‘Paperwhite Ziva’ are very easy to grow and soon start to put on growth after they are planted. Those planted in September may be slightly slower to wake up than those planted in October or November.
- Choose preferably a wide, dish-shaped container (approximately 8-12in in diameter) with a drainage hole in the bottom and a drip tray which fits underneath;
- Fill the container almost to the top, leaving around 1in of space at the top.
- Create a small dip in the compost for each bulb and position them (with the pointed side facing upwards) at a spacing of around 1in apart from each other;
- Water in after planting and position in a warm, bright space. They should start to grow within a few weeks.
Top tips for growing Paperwhites:
- If planting Paperwhites in a container with soil, push ornamental garden twigs, such as Dogwood and Viburnum, into the soil around the bulbs – the twigs give the display a natural look and help to keep the Narcissus growing upright as they can become quite tall;
- To grow Paperwhites in a tall glass vase, simply fill the bottom quarter of the vase with ornamental stones, position the bulbs close together on top of the stones then carefully top up with water until the water reaches the base of the bulbs;
- Paperwhites have a fairly generous flowering time, but for a prolonged display it’s a good idea to plant separate displays at two-week intervals.
2) Autumn Crocuses
Autumn flowering crocuses, including Sternbergia, Colchicum and Crocus sativus (or Saffron Crocus) are fantastic for bringing dazzling autumn colour to the garden, where they are fully hardy and will naturalise and return year after year. Not only this, but they can also be grown very easily in your home to create an attractive living indoor feature.
You can be creative with how you choose to grow them indoors, either potting them up into pretty indoor containers, growing them individually in special bulb vases or grouped together inside a large glass vase.
There is no preparation required for these bulbs, which are raring to start growing at their natural time, which is indeed autumn. Plant them in September or October and they will get started almost right away. They’re undemanding, fuss free and will bloom even when neglected – if you like the sound of that then you must give autumn crocuses a try!
How to grow autumn crocuses indoors
- If planting in pots, choose a pot with drainage holes and a drip tray that fits underneath, or pot with drainage holes which fits within an indoor pot holder;
- You can choose a pot of virtually any size. As a guide, you can fit between 6-8 crocus bulbs in a pot which is 6in in diameter. The bulbs can be planted at a spacing of around 1-2in apart;
- Three-quarters fill your pot with a multipurpose compost and position your bulbs with the shoots facing upwards. Then top up the remaining space in the pot with more compost;
- Water in after planting and position in a bright place with plenty of natural daylight;
- If growing in a special bulb vase, simply fill the base of the vase with water so that it reaches the neck of the vase and place the bulb into the cupped part;
- If growing inside a standard glass vase, add a layer of decorative stones to the base of the vase, position the bulbs on top of the stones at a spacing of around 1-2in apart from each other, then add water so that the water just about reaches the bottom side of the bulbs. Top up with more water when the water level starts to look low.
Top tips for growing autumn crocuses indoors:
- Position your autumn crocuses in a bright part of your home. Keep out of direct sunlight to help prolong the flowering period. If the flowers start to lean towards the light, simply turn the pot to face the other way and they will correct themselves;
- Water them only when the surface of the soil becomes dry, avoid over watering them and try not to allow them to sit in soggy, undrained soil;
- After flowering has ended, plant the bulbs straight out in the garden where they will soon become dormant, but then return and flower again out in the garden the following autumn.
3) Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)
Amaryllis flowers are big, blousy and impressive. Even the bulbs themselves are satisfyingly big and chunky! They’re easy to grow too – with minimal care and attention, these tremendous bulbs will shoot up a sizeable stem before throwing out a radial of whopping great blooms at the top.
You can grow Amaryllis as a living decoration, typically flowering in time to wow your guests during the festive season. Pot them up in autumn and they normally take between 6-10 weeks to reach flowering stage. If you buy more than one bulb, you can plant them at two-week intervals to extend your Amaryllis display into the New Year.
You don’t have to worry about preparing or pre-chilling your Amaryllis bulbs, by autumn they are normally eager to get growing soon after being planted. You can grow them in any ordinary multipurpose or houseplant compost, then just add water and off they go!
How to grow Amaryllis bulbs
- Choose a pot which is large enough to fit your bulbs, allowing around 1in of space between the bulb and the edge of the pot. Ensure your pots has a drainage hole and don’t forget to put a drip tray underneath to catch any water which drains out later;
- The bulb should be planted with the neck exposed. In a standard 6in pot your bulb would have around 1-3in of space below the base of the bulb. In which case add a 1-3in layer of compost to the bottom and pot and position your bulb on the compost surface so that the neck of the bulb is roughly 1in below the rim of the pot;
- Pack compost around the sides of the bulb so that it is surrounded by compost up to the neck;
- Firm the compost down, adding more if necessary afterwards, then water in;
- Position your potted Amaryllis in a warm, bright part of your home and it should typically start to produce a growing tip after 2-4 weeks, although sometimes it can take a little longer to wake up depending on how warm it is;
- Once in full growth, water your Amaryllis only when the surface of the compost is dry. Avoid letting it sit in soggy compost for too long.
Top tips for growing Amaryllis:
- Amaryllis make great gifts. Either pot them up a few weeks in advance and give them already in growth, or gift them dormant in October or November and let the recipient get all the satisfaction of growing these big bulbs themselves!
- Some Amaryllis varieties may grow slightly faster than others. If you choose a few different types, you can enjoy a prolonged succession of colour in your home;
- After flowering, you can keep your Amaryllis bulb for next year. Position the potted bulb in an out-of-the-way place close by to a window, or in a shed or garage next to a window is fine. Water only occasionally during the summer season and allow the stem to fully die back and leaves to form. The following autumn the leaves may die back, at which point you can cut them off and position your bulb back in your home.