House Plant Bulbs

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Bulbs make rather good houseplants, albeit temporary ones. When grown in a clear glass container without soil, the developing roots can also be seen. This can also be an excellent way for children to have an interest in plants and gardening. The white roots on show also have a light, fresh appearance. Layering several bulbs between compost will mean a longer-lasting display because the lowest bulbs will take longer to get to the surface and flower. For a maximum-impact display, pack single layers of bulbs in the pot so that there is hardly any compost visible.

Spring Bulbs

Generally, bulbs are ideal for a temporary indoor display. You can then plant them out into the garden after flowering. In autumn, plant bulbs into a pot of multipurpose compost. Keep the container moist, but not wet and in a cold or cool place (ideally outside). Once the leaves start to show, keep in plenty of light. Bring into its display position once the flower buds have formed; the cooler this spot is, the longer the flowers will last. Keep well watered. A fertiliser is not necessary. At the end of flowering, (remove spent flowers if there are more still to come), plant the bulbs in the garden or dispose of in the compost heap.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

A classic bulb planted alone in a pot and bought for Christmas displays. Usually red or white flowers, sometimes with several per stem. Leaves appear after the flower spike.


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  • Very free flowering – each bulb will yield multiple stems – the mix comes in a wide array of dazzling colours.

Hyacinth (Hyacinthus)

A couple of these flowers will be sufficient to scent an entire room. Available in a range of colours and shades. Traditionally, hyacinth is a bulb for indoor display. A popular variety is Hyacinthus orientalis “Blue Jacket”. This navy-blue hyacinth is a bulbous perennial bearing dense, upright spikes of fragrant, bell-shaped flowers with purple veins in early spring.

Daffodil (Narcissus)

Specific daffodil varieties have been developed that are ideal for either forcing (such as “Paper White”) or small pots (“Tete-a-tete”). Small and miniature daffodils make good spring-flowering, bulbous perennials for both indoor and outdoor displays.

Spring Bulbs

Crocus (Crocus)

The sweet fragrance is gorgeous up close, and so a pot or two of these small flowers are worth growing. It is even possible to cultivate saffron in a bowl, using Crocus sativus bulbs. Spring-flowering crocus are indispensable dwarf perennials as they bring a welcome splash of early spring colour into the garden.

Snowdrop (Galanthus)

Minute variations of green patterns can appear on a snowdrop petal, but even the most basic form, G. nivalis, brings a welcome sign of spring. A popular variety is Galanthus elwesii. This robust snowdrop is a bulbous perennial that produces slender, honey-scented, pure white flowers in late winter, above the bluish-green foliage.

Spring Bulbs

Tulip (Tulipa)

The simple form of the tulip flower works both in isolation (a forced bulb in a single vase) and in a group. Dwarf forms are available for small spaces, but many of the varieties will not flower again for the following year. A popular variation is Tulipa clusiana. This yellow-flowered lady tulip is a bulbous perennial which flowers in early- to mid-spring. The star-shaped flowers, tinged red or brownish-purple on the outsides, are produced in clusters of up to three per stem, above the linear, grey-green leaves.

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Forcing Bulbs

Most flowers that can be forced have flower embryos already formed within buds, scales or tunics ready for emergence when they receive the right amount of heat and moisture. If these flowering initials are not present, then no amount of forcing will produce a flower.

Some plants have a relatively uncomplicated programme. Lily of the valley, for example, can be brought into flower at any time of the year as long as the rhizomes are chilled immediately before subjecting them to warmth. Many spring-flowering bulbs will behave in the same way and can be brought into flower early by artificially simulating a season at the wrong time. Daffodil and tulip bulbs are subjected to cooling treatment, and hyacinths to heat treatment, which results in their flowering weeks before untreated bulbs.

Spring Bulbs

Hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses and several tulips can be mildly forced by plunging them in a cool place after planting to let them develop an adequate root system before they are forced by heat. To do this plant the bulbs as soon as they are obtainable in pots or containers. Use ordinary potting mix if the pots have drainage holes; if not, use bulb fibre which contains charcoal. Plant the bulbs with their tips at the surface of the mix. Ideally, they should then be buried in the garden under 15cm (6in) of soil or ashes with each pot wrapped in newspaper.

Cellar, Cupboard or Cold Frame

If this is not really possible, then they should be kept in an unheated cellar, cool cupboard, or cold frame, wrapped in newspaper to exclude light. If the containers were well packed and the mix well-watered beforehand, the bulbs should not need any attention until about eight weeks later when they should be checked to see if they have pale shoots protruding about 2 to 5cm (1 to 2in) above the surface of the mix. The buds of tulips or hyacinths must be well clear of the neck of the bulb before they are brought into subdued light at a temperature around 10C (50F).

Spring Bulbs

Water as required to keep the mix moist. When the leaves are green, and the flower bud can be seen swelling inside them, move the bulbs to a warmer room to hasten flowering. Once the bulbs have finished flowering, the flower heads (not the stalks) should be removed, and the bulbs should be planted in the garden to recover. It may take a few years before they flower well again in the garden and they should be allowed at least three or four years to recover fully before forcing is attempted again.

Share Your Story

Mix different bulbs in assorted containers for a springtime display. What are your favourite bulbs? Which ones make you smile?

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20 thoughts on “House Plant Bulbs”

  1. Hi

    I enjoy indoor gardening and every Christmas I grow amaryllis, as the flowers are very striking. I prefer using giant bulbs, as often you get more than one flowering spike. If you look after the bulb you can get it to flower the following Christmas. The range of bulbs you have chosen are outstanding. The only thing I would add is lily of the Valley, which can be used as a centrepiece of a table. The scent  of the plant is delightful and easy to grow from pips

    Thank you


    • Hi Antonio – thank you for reading and adding comments. How could I have forgotten the lily of the valley? Such as pretty and delicate plant, with a gorgeous scent. All the best, Diane.

  2. The plants you have shown are so beautiful, as I live in South Africa and the weather is hot and dry, some of these plants don’t grow happily here in the Western Cape.

    When I lived in Johannesburg, it was wonderful to be able to plant tulips, daffodils and also planted hyacinths in a bowl indoors. The daffodils grew outside and made a lovely show.

    I know cyclamen and gloxinia grew well up there too but have had no luck with them here. (I realize they are not bulbs, but thought I would mention them anyway). Both are lovely to grow but just not in Cape Town.

    Due to the drought, we are been experiencing I am tending to plant indigenous plants now.

    • Hi – thank you for leaving comments. I can imagine the weather in your country can make a difference as to what can be planted and thrive. Cyclamen are one of my favourites, they look gorgeous under a tree for spring colour. All the best, Diane.

  3. To be honest I was only aware of the daffodil before this article! I really like the idea of mixing bulbs together as that must be so pretty to see the different plants and colours combined together. This is certainly a project for me in the New Year this year. The garden needs a much needed makeover and I have bookmarked this website to come back to it!

    • Hi – thank you for visiting my site and leaving a comment. I am pleased this article has given you some ideas, and I hope you enjoy working in your garden. All the best, Diane

  4. I am also from the UK so I’m glad to be reading this as we have always had problems with grown and developing plants indoors, probably because its difficult for us to keep our home at room temperature as we seem to retain heat in the summer and in the winter. Also we dont have window sills because of the structure of our house so how would i be able to keep small house plants in natural daylight ?

    • Hi – thank you for your comments on my article. I am pleased you enjoyed reading it. If you are unable to place plants on your windowsills, could you perhaps add a small table nearby, to allow your plants to get the benefit of natural daylight and warmth? All the best, Diane

  5. Hello, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. My wife enjoys bulbs so I will definitely talk with her about this. You give some great examples of how to force them. Besides sharing this with my friends I will share it on my Facebook profile, I am sure many people will find this helpful.

    • Hi – thank you for reading my article and leaving a comment. I am pleased you found it helpful, and I appreciate you sharing it on Facebook. All the best, Diane

  6. Oh thanks very much for sharing about bulbs. In my previous home, my family used to grow bonsai instead of bulbs for decoration purpose. I think I will try to grow again tulips and for the next year family summer activities. My mother loves those and it will do well to for our sightseeing in the house. Thanks

    • Hi – thank you for visiting my website, and leaving a comment. I hope you have success with growing your tulips. All the best, Diane

  7. I’m a complete newbee to this subject. What I know is how magical it is to witness the process of bulbs opening and it’s color changing. The Amaryllis are called Lirios in my country (or Lirios probably are a type of Amaryllis) I give them to my wife for no reason once or twice a month (Just because she loves the way they perfume our house with their characteristic aromas).

    My wife birthday is coming and she will be out of country a week before. I’ll need to cultivate some of them in door and probably transplant grown plants to get her surprised. I also like Tulips, but  they are kind of fragile in middle hot environments. 

    I hope to read a lot from you, in order to get our garden in it’s best shape.


    • Hi – thank you for visiting my site and leaving a thoughtful comment. How lovely that you present your wife with an Amaryllis every month. I hope you will continue to read my articles and read something new. All the best, Diane  

  8. This is an awesome article on bulbs. My mom made me love Amaryllis. The way she took care of saving an amaryllis bulb after it has bloomed so it can bloom again was simply amazing.

    She’ll just put in slow release fertilizer and keep them going through the spring and summer, then put them outside in the summer to get a lot of sun to recupe from flowering. In late fall, she’ll stop watering and bring inside to a dark area for a month to let it rest.

    She’ll bring it out, remove all the dead stuff and put it in the window. She’ll water it when dry and start the process again. After a few years, more bulbs form and she’ll take them out of the pot, split and repot the bulbs.

    Thank you for this article.

  9. I love bulbs. Thank you for giving me a great idea of mixing them up. I never thought about it. I love all of them, they are beautiful and the reason that after you can plant them in the garden makes them perfect. My favorite? Snowdrop! I love how simple yet gorgeous they always look. And once you put them in the garden, they spread around nicely.

    • Hi – thank you for taking the time to visit my website. I am pleased you have got some ideas from my article. I am a big fan of snowdrops too, they are so dainty. All the best, Diane

  10. Hey, I enjoy your post while reading and find is very useful for all. Mix different bulbs in assorted containers for a springtime display.
    I learn a lot from your article
    A classic bulb planted alone in a pot and bought for Christmas displays. Usually red or white flowers, sometimes with several per stem. Leaves appear after the flower spike. Thank you for sharing your awesome thoughts.

    • Hi – thank you for leaving a comment about my article. I am pleased you enjoyed it, and I hope you learned something new about bulbs. All the best, Diane


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