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Planting bulbs 1
In this guide we look at how you can plant a hyacinth in a jar, as well as looking at some other bulbs and containers.
  • Gloves
  • Prepared hyacinth bulbs
  • Jam jar or hyacinth vase
  • Water
  1. Choose your container. A clear or coloured narrow topped jar like a jam jar or a hyacinth vase is perfect as it will hold the bulb just above the water and they let you see the developing roots.
  2. Fill each glass jar or vase with water up to the narrow part or just below where the bulb’s base will sit, this will stop the bulb from sitting in water and rotting. Put on your gloves as hyacinth bulbs can irritate your skin. Then place the bulb with the pointy end up at the top of the jar or vase.
  3. Place the glass jar or vase in a cool, dark place (below 10 degrees celsius) for 4-6 weeks or until roots have formed. A shed or garage is ideal, or you can place a box over the top as well to keep any light out. Remember to occasionally top up the water.
  4. When ready, bring them into the light. Once the main shoot is about 7-10cm tall, (see middle vase in the photo below) move the glass into full light and watch the flower gradually develop. Turn the glass daily to prevent the plant stretching towards the light and toppling over. Top up the water as necessary and keep on a cool windowsill if possible, instead of a hot room to help them flower longer.
Planting bulbs 2

For this you will need:

  • Gloves
  • Paperwhite bulbs
  • A vase
  • Water
  • Glass stones, gravel or pebbles
  1. Choose a tall vase and carefully fill it with either glass stones, gravel, or pebbles. This not only adds support for the plant it is very attractive as you can see the developing roots and shoots.
  2. Place the bulbs on the surface of the gravel, pushing them down gently. Then fill the container with water until it comes up to the level just below the bulbs, be careful not to pour in too much water otherwise the bulbs might rot. Unlike hyacinths, Paperwhites do not need to be kept in the dark to make them flower.
  3. Place the vase on a cool, bright windowsill and start to watch them grow, keep the water topped up and soon you will be rewarded with a mass of stunning pure white, fragrant flowers that will cheer up any winter’s day.
Planting bulbs 3

To plant a bulb in compost you will need:

  • Gloves
  • Shallow bowl or container with or without drainage holes
  • Crocks (to cover drainage hole)
  • Compost
  • Prepared bulbs like hyacinth or paperwhite
  • Water
  • Gravel or moss to cover the compost
  • Twigs or sticks to support paperwhites

If you choose a container with a hole in the bottom, place some crocks or stones over the hole and sit it in a saucer when you bring it inside so that it can catch any water. You can use multipurpose compost, but bulb fibre is best if you are growing in a container without a hole in the bottom as it is free draining and has been prepared especially for this purpose.

Step 1 – Add compost

Fill the container almost to the top with compost but leave room to add a bit more around the bulbs and for a layer of decorative moss or gravel at the end.

Step 2 – Plant the bulbs

Place the bulbs, pointy end up into the compost and push down gently. You can put the bulbs close together but not quite touching. The more bulbs the better the display.

Step 3 – Top up compost

Gently add some more compost so the bulbs are covered and just the tips of the bulbs are showing.

Step 4 – Add water

If your container has a drainage hole, water enough to make the compost damp but only water a little if your container doesn’t have drainage to stop the bulbs becoming waterlogged. Alternatively, you can add the water to the bowl before putting in the compost, hyacinth bowls have a lip at the bottom, so only fill to this level (approx. 1cm).

Step 5 – Decorate with moss or gravel

You can add some moss, gravel, decorative glass, or stones to the top of your container to make it more attractive. This is a nice touch if it is going to be a gift.

CGC planting bulbs in compost

Step 6 – Where to place them

If you chose to plant hyacinths, place them in a cool dark place like a shed or a garage, and/or you can place a box over the top as well to keep any light out. Check on them regularly to make sure the compost hasn’t dried out.

After about 10 weeks and once the shoots are 5cm high bring them into the house and they will flower in about 3-4 weeks. Water as required to keep the compost damp.

For paperwhites you can place them directly on a cool, bright windowsill and start to watch them grow! Paperwhites can grow quite tall so you can add some twigs to help support the stems. Using wintering flowering shrubs like Dawn (Viburnum x bodnantense) adds extra interest and fragrance but any twigs or sticks will do. Water as required to keep the compost damp and then just sit back and relax and enjoy the beautiful flowers and fragrance of these wonderful bulbs.

There are other bulbs that are ideal for planting into small pots and containers which in the right conditions will flower in late January through to February.

If you plant your bulbs in the same way as the hyacinths and paperwhites above and then place them somewhere cool (below 10 degrees C), they will then be ready to bring into a bright, cool room to flower. Crocus require 8-10 weeks in a cool place, and narcissues Tete a Tete needs 10-15 weeks.

Miniature irises are also easy to grow and require a cool period of 10-15 weeks after planting. After the cooling period they need to be placed in the dark for 2 weeks before bringing them into the light to flower.

After flowering, most bulbs can be planted into the garden for a lovely display next year. Paperwhites are not very hardy but can be dried and re-used indoors again. Hyacinths might not flower so well the following year so either treat like an annual or plant in the garden and see what happens.

If you prefer vegetables instead of flowers, then don’t forget you can plant your onion sets and garlic bulbs now.

Either start them off in modules of compost and place them in a cold glasshouse or cold frame ready to plant out in the early spring. Or plant in a deeper container like a trough or raised bed. Alternatively, you can plant out directly into the ground but watch out for very wet weather and inquisitive birds!

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