Tag Archives: hyacinths

Layering tulips and other bulbs in pots

First published by Rattan Direct on 6 November 2016.

Tulips, daffodils and irises are the bulbs I’m going to plant in layers in a container, to produce wave after wave after wave of flowers in the spring. I’ve waited until November to give the tulips a fair chance of avoiding disease, which should be killed off now by colder temperatures and frost.


Tulips and hyacinths

In September, a long time before the clocks went back, we talked about planting bulbs for spring – in the garden and in pots.

But we didn’t plant tulips or hyacinths in the garden. They are planted now, in November, as a way of avoiding tulip fire, and other viral and fungal diseases that like warm temperatures and damp conditions. The colder temperatures and frosts of November tend to kill them off so it’s worth waiting.

More than one type of bulb in a pot

So I’ve waited, as I want to have tulips as one of several waves of flowers in a container.

The idea is to plant the bulbs in layers: put the bigger bulbs in first, then the next biggest ones and finally the smallest ones. Many people top the container off with some winter pansies but I think slugs and snails would do for them pretty quickly here, based on local experience.

Have a look at this no fuss guide from Gardeners’ World.

My choice of bulbs

I looked in gardens and read around a bit before I made my choice. It’s going to be small irises (flowering in January to February), small daffodils (March to April) and tulips (May).

For planting, tulips go in first, about 15-20cm deep, because they are the biggest. Tulipa Florosa is a pink, cream and green tulip, a lovely combination of colours, and it flowers in May. As the flowers open, the pink intensifies. Tulips like full sun and don’t like strong winds.

Next comes a small and lovely daffodil called Narcissus Toto. It’s yellow fading to cream in colour and has, according to many bulb growers, a slightly windswept appearance. That will match how things are here when it is in flower from March to April. It’s planted about 10-15cm deep.

Last into the pot, 5cm deep, is Iris reticulata ‘Alida’, a mid-blue little iris with splashes of yellow on each fall. Its leaves are sword-shaped. It’s very hardy and flowers from January to February. It likes full sun.

Iris reticulata 'Alida'. Tulips
Iris reticulata ‘Alida’. © Chris Mealy and re-used under CC BY-ND 2.0 licence

Where am I going to put the container?

In my dreams this lovely container greets me at the front door – but my front door doesn’t get full sun in the spring. Perhaps elsewhere in the front garden? But that can be a very windy place in spring as mad March winds race across the Atlantic. Outside the back door, then, could that be a possibility? Maybe but I’d have to move …

Yes, gardening’s full of challenges as we strive for Beauty.




Hyacinths to flower at Christmas – plant them now

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 14 September 2016.

Hyacinths in flower (and soft ‘Paperwhite’ narcissi) are a Christmas tradition in many homes. Delft Blue hyacinths are my Mum’s favourite Christmas gift – and it is special to plant them in her favourite bowl. Now is the time to prepare. One of our blogs last month encouraged you to order spring bulbs – so you may be ahead of us on this one. If not, look in your garden centre or DIY superstore for prepacked or loose bulbs for indoor planting.

Plant hyacinths for Christmas now!

To flower indoors during the Christmas season bulbs need to have been ‘forced’ (this means they think it is spring sooner than it is). In garden centres and shops, look for bulbs that are clearly labelled and find those that have been prepared to flower at the time you want them in bloom.

You need:

  • Forced, indoor, hyacinth bulbs (or try ‘Paperwhite’ narcissi for a change). Keep them in a paper bag or box or an open plastic bag until you are ready to use them.
  • Gloves (hyacinth bulbs can irritate some people’s skin, so protect yours)
  • A small bag of bulb compost (sometimes called bulb fibre)
  • Container(s) that are at least 2.5cm (1 inch) deeper than the bottom of the bulb and that allow at least 1cm (1/2 inch) space around each bulb
  • A dark and cool place to store your planted bowls until the tips of the bulbs show green (under the stairs, in a shed or garage – but in sheds or garages protect them from mice and squirrels by wrapping the bowls loosely with wire netting).
Prepared hyacinth bulbs and compost. Get ready for Christmas! Sarah Buchanan

How to do it:

  • Cover the bottom of a container with bulb compost. Put the bulb(s) on top and fill in around with bulb compost until only the top of the bulb shows. Firm the compost down gently – not too hard – and water it. Be careful not to pour water onto the tip of the bulb (it will rot).
  • Put the container in your cool, dark place.
  • Check on it now and then to make sure the compost is moist but not wet.
  • As soon as the green tip of the bulb shows, put the bowl in a cool and light place (perhaps the windowsill of a shed or a porch) and let them grow until the flower buds are showing when you should bring them into pride of place.
Hyacinths potted ready for Christmas. Sarah Buchanan.


At school we grew single hyacinth bulbs in jars to see the roots grow (and grow). I still enjoy this window-sill project. Simply find a clear glass jar which has a top that is slightly smaller than the base of the hyacinth bulb. Fill the jar with water to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the top and and place the bulb on the top. Put it in the dark to start growing and, once the tip shows green, bring it onto your window sill  and be amazed at just how much root growth comes out of one bulb! My jam jar hyacinths often topple over when in flower. Place yours somewhere where the flower can be supported by a stick in another pot or lean against the wall.

TOP TIPS for hyacinths and other indoor bulbs

  • Don’t plant different varieties or flower colours of bulbs in the same pot: if you want a pot with a mix of bulbs in it, plant each variety of bulb in separate plastic flower pots and when they are each just right put the pots with their bulbs into a bigger container, cover the tops of the pots with soil or moss and stand back for praise.
  • In darker houses and rooms bulbs will grow long stems and flop all over the place. Give them some structure by pushing a framework of garden twigs into the soil around the pot edge.
Nowruz_Sonbol_(Hyacinth) By Fl4812a – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47669982

Have a Happy Hyacinth Christmas!