Hyacinths make fantastic, fragrant indoor Christmas displays. For Christmas flowering you’ll need heat-treated bulbs. We have a number of beautiful and fragrant varieties available in our stores, suitably prepared for indoor Christmas flowering: 69p each or 5 for £3.
Plant the bulbs around 13 weeks before Christmas, roughly in late September. Use bulb fibre or multi-purpose compost. there’s no need for a rich growing medium or post-planting feeding.
Begin with a 5cm layer of compost in your chosen container. Place the bulbs close together without touching. Fill compost around them leaving the top of each bulb visible. Unlike outdoor planting, indoor hyacinths don’t need to be deeply buried. Leave a 1cm gap below the rim to allow for watering. Water lightly to moisten the compost.
After planting, create a winter-like environment for the bulbs. This dark and cool period encourages the development of a good root system. Cover the containers with a black bin bag or newspaper and keep them in a cool, dark place, ideally around 9°C. Check and water when the compost dries out. If your containers lack drainage, tip them briefly after watering to avoid water build-up.
Around 10 weeks later, when shoots appear, move them into a bright, cool place such as a windowsill. Avoid placing them near a heat source, such as a radiator. This will make them grow too quickly and topple over. Water when the compost starts to feel dry. Your hyacinths indoors should bloom in just three weeks. The cooler the room the longer the flowers will last.
For a different approach, grow hyacinths in glass jars without any compost. Again use only heat-treated bulbs for this. Fill each glass with water to just below the bulb’s base, ensuring the basal plate doesn’t touch the water. Keep them in the same way as the potted hyacinths, topping up the water if necessary.
Once the main green shoot is about 7-10cm tall, move the glass into full light and watch the flower gradually develop. Turn the glass around by a half-turn every day, to prevent the plant growing towards the light and toppling over.
Forced hyacinth bulbs for indoor displays cannot be used for forcing again the following year. However, you can plant them outdoors after the foliage has died back, for spring blooms in subsequent years.
Hyacinths indoors tend to flop over due to heavy flower heads caused by excess heat. Place them in cool, well-lit spots away from heat sources to encourage slow, sturdy growth. If the leaves develop faster than the flower buds, move the pots back to a dark, cooler place for a day or two, but no longer than this or the leaves may begin to turn pale.
The main reasons for poor results are:
- Removing the bulbs too soon from their cool, dark conditions
- The bulb fibre or compost is too wet or too dry
- The dark conditions are not cool enough
After enjoying your hyacinths, they won’t be suitable for use indoors again. Let them die down naturally. Then, plant the bulbs outdoors, at twice their own depth, near the front of a border.
Other Bulbs you can Grow for Christmas Indoors
Narcissus ‘Paper White’ will flower in 6 to 10 weeks from planting. They can be planted in exactly the same way as the hyacinths but instead of keeping them in the dark, place them in a cool bright place so they don’t get too tall and leggy. An unheated greenhouse, a sheltered spot outside or a cool windowsill is fine, they just need to be frost free. Bring them into the house at the last minute when the flowers are about to open.
If the stems get lanky, push some twigs into the compost to support them. Note that bulbs like Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’ are not hardy in most UK areas, so dry and store them for replanting the following autumn.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) produce a thick stem topped with huge, dramatic trumpet shaped flowers. Pot them up in October for flowering in six to eight weeks. Pot each bulb individually in a container, leaving about two-thirds above the compost surface. Use a heavy plant pot or cover pot to stop the top-heavy flowers from falling over.
Like the paper whites, keep the bulb somewhere cool and well lit, watering sparingly. When leaves and a flower stem start to emerge increase the watering. Turn the pot once each week so the stem doesn’t lean towards the light. The flowers will last longer if the bulbs are kept somewhere cool.
Flowers blooming indoors at Christmas are a joy in themselves. Hyacinths and Paper white daffodils are gorgeously scented as well as beautiful, while amaryllis are fabulously showy. Planting up the bulbs is very easy and with just a little care between planting and Christmas you can have your own flowering winter display.
Don’t fret if you miss the window for planting your bulbs in time for a festive Christmas display. By planting them a few weeks later you’ll have the pleasure of appreciating their charm even more once the Christmas decorations are packed away. With the glitter and festive commotion gone, you can fully appreciate their beauty and delightful fragrance.
By our resident horticultural expert