Now is the time of year when you’ll start to see different types of spring bulbs for sale. With a bit of planning, you can prepare some of them to flower in time for Christmas. Think of the joy of having brightly coloured, highly scented flowers in the house on Christmas Day!  

There are several types of bulbs that can be used for this type of display and here is a selection of some of the best…


Hyacinths are one of the best loved examples of colourful, scented bulbs. There are two different ways of forcing them into early flowering. One way is to grow them in water, the other in bulb compost.

It’s important to buy bulbs that are firm to the touch and marked on the label as having been prepared for forcing.


Growing in water

This method uses specially designed Hyacinth vases. These have a bottom section filled with water, with the bulb placed into the top section.

Ensure the water level finishes just below where the bulb is placed to avoid it sitting in water.

Growing in containers

The container doesn’t have to have holes in the bottom, but either way it’s a good idea to put gravel or broken crocks at the bottom to improve drainage. Use a peat free bulb fibre compost and plant the bulbs close together in the container, however, ensure they’re not touching. Place so the tops are just poking out of the compost surface.

The method of forced growing is the same, whether in water or compost.


Simply place the container in a dark, cool, frost free cupboard or garage at 10˚c. Leave them there for about 10 weeks, checking from time to time. After around six weeks you should see flower spikes starting to show.

At this point, bring the container into the light, but keep the temperature cool until the flower spikes start to colour up. Then, they’re ready to bring into a warm room where their gorgeous scent should soon start to fill the air.

For successional flowers start fresh bulbs off at weekly intervals. Once the bulbs have finished flowering, they can be planted outside in the garden where they should reappear during the spring in following years.

Top tips

  • Buy large bulbs because the bigger the bulb, the larger the flower
  • Place thin hazel twigs amongst groups of hyacinths growing in containers to support the flower spikes as they develop
  • Wait until soil warms up outside before planting in the flower border



For scented flowers for inside your home, the group of Narcissi bulbs known as ‘paperwhites’ are perfect. They’ll also only take about 5-6 weeks to flower, whereas other types of Narcissus will take around 16 weeks.

Although Narcissi need a cold spell to flower well, unlike hyacinths they don’t need to be placed in the dark to get them to flower.

Plant the bulbs just below the soil surface into a free draining gritty compost mix. Keep the soil moist but not over wet.

Bring pots into the house when the shoots reach about 5cm in height. Then they should flower within 4-6 weeks.

Look for varieties such as ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Ziva’ for the earliest of flowers, followed by ‘Double Pheasant’s Eye’ for later in the spring.

Paperwhites are not hardy so don’t plant outside; keep them in pots for next year.

Top tips

  • Make sure bulbs are firm
  • Choose deep, large pots as they produce huge amounts of roots
  • Plant bulbs as soon as you can; if not keep somewhere cool and dark until you’re able to do so


These exotic looking flowers originate in warmer climes such as Brazil. They look absolutely stunning when in full flower and make ideal houseplants. There are deep velvet red cultivars available, as well as white and green flowered ones. Their colouring makes them ideal showstoppers for the Christmas Day table.

You’ll need to start them off as early as possible this month to be in with a chance of having them in flower for Christmas.


Top tips

  • Plant the bulb with one third in the soil, with the remaining two thirds above the soil level
  • To keep the bulb for the following year, feed and water until leaves die back then leave for 8 weeks drying out before restarting watering
  • Make sure the bulbs are kept in a frost-free environment year round

Although it may seem early to think about Christmas, preparing this plants to get a head-start means you’ll have fantastic centre pieces at you Christmas Day table.

Find out more about growing veg at home:

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