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Using spring bulbs as houseplants

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Hyacinths and fritillary on a mantelpiece. Picture; thejoyofplants.co.uk
Hyacinths and fritillary on a mantelpiece. Picture; thejoyofplants.co.uk

March houseplants of the month

We all need to see signs of spring right now and what better to use than spring bulbs? Here, experts from www.thejoyofplants.co.uk, an initiative of The Flower Council of Holland, shows the best way to show them off as March houseplants of the month.

Nothing creates a spring mood like potted bulbs. Five stars for March are Narcissi, grape hyacinths (Muscari), tulips, hyacinths and fritillaries (crown imperials) which will flower quickly indoors, thanks to the growers who have already subjected the bulbs to a cold and warm period to activate growth.

Our garden bulbs have a variety of origins – tulips originate from Turkey, hyacinths from Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, Narcissi from south-west Europe and fritillaries are native to Europe and Western Asia.

What to look for when buying bulbs

  • Larger bulbs are higher quality and offer the most abundant and the biggest flowers.
  • Check that plants are free of pests and diseases and well rooted in the pot.
  • Dried buds or leaf tips are a sign of too little moisture; mould on the bulbs or the soil indicates too much.
  • A well-developed bud already showing some colour has the best chance of emerging attractively.

Types of bulbs

Potted tulips are available as specialist botanical species which remain short and small through to larger single and double-flowered, fringed (crispa) and parrot tulips. The flower can be single-coloured or multicoloured, flamed or striped.
Hyacinths come in classic pink, white and blue, but also novel shades such as purple, salmon and pale yellow. The individual flowers are called ‘nails’. The more nails, the more richly the plant flowers.

Potted narcissi (daffodils) are offered as both scented sprays and classic trumpets, as well as doubles. Most common colours are yellow and white, while bicolours with salmon and orange are becoming more widespread.
Grape hyacinths come in white, lilac, purple and pink, with a light musk fragrance.
Fritillaria resembles a plover’s egg (F. meleagris) with spotted flowers that hang on the stems like eggs. F. persica is taller and more substantial, with purple flowers at the top. Crown imperials (F. imperialis) have long stems crowned with strongly scented hanging flowers.

Mixed bulbs on a dining table. Picture; thejoyofplants.co.uk
Mixed bulbs on a dining table. Picture; thejoyofplants.co.uk

Caring for indoor bulbs

  • The cooler the spot indoors, the longer they will flower.
  • Regular watering helps the bulb to bloom, but too much water will cause it to rot.
  • There’s no need to feed – the nutrients are already in the bulb.
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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