Planting bulbs now will make the perfect Xmas gift

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Looking for an original, personal, purse-friendly Christmas gift this year?

How about planting up some bulbs in a beautiful container, wrapping it in a ribbon and gifting it to a loved one?

It’s also a great thing to get kids involved with – they could decorate the container or create the label as well as help you plant the bulbs.

Don’t forget to share your photos with us via social media using #HelpingTheUKGrow on @first_news, or upload your photos to our gallery and be part of our campaign.

Forcing bulbs for Christmas

If you force bulbs now they should be about ready to flower when you gift them in December.

Forcing might sound technical but it just means that you control the environmental temperatures of the bulbs so they think it’s spring, rather than mid-winter, and start to flower.

Some of the best bulbs to force are Amaryllis, Narcissus and Hyacinths.


Soak the bulbs for a few hours in warm water to kick start the growing process. Amaryllis enjoy being pot-bound so choose a pot that is not too much bigger than the bulb itself.

Plant the bulbs in potting fibre or compost. Add a layer to the bottom of the pot, add the bulb and fill in around it with your compost or potting fibre. Leave 2/3 of the bulb sticking up out of the compost.

Water and over the coming weeks continue to keep the soil moist but not soaked or the bulb will rot!

You will initially need to keep the bulb in a cool, dark spot to mimic winter, for a few weeks. Then move it into a warm, bright room to tell it that spring is here and it needs to start growing!


All varieties of ‘Paper White’ daffodils are suitable for forcing and most have a delightfully strong scent, which is fantastic indoors. Make sure you use bulbs that are specifically labelled as ‘prepared’ for forcing (or for growing indoors).

Planting in a pot

Narcissus always look their best when planted in clumps, so choose a pot that gives you the space to do this. Add a layer of grit in the base of the pot for drainage and part fill with compost. Plant the bulbs, pointy end up and cover with the rest of the compost.

WARNING: Wear gloves when handling narcissus bulbs as they can irritate skin

Water thoroughly and pop them in a cool, dark place for three to four weeks and keep regularly moist until their shoots are about 5cm tall. Then bring them into a warm, sunny spot.

Planting in a vase

This is a beautiful Christmas gift. You can really get creative with what you use – as well a vase how about an old teapot, jug, vintage mixing bowl? Anything without drainage holes at bottom will work and make a truly personal gift.

Simply fill the container about 2/3 full with gravel or small pebbles. Plant the bulbs, pointy side up. Again don’t’ forget to wear gloves to handle the bulbs.

Cover over with the remaining gravel to just above the top of the bulbs. Water to below the roots and make sure they never dry out.

Plant somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight for a few weeks and when they start to shoot bring them to a warm, bright spot.

For more information, watch this helpful how-to video by Laetitia Maklouf or take a look at her Instagram.

Alternatively, the RHS has lots of useful information on how to force bulbs including that winter favourite, hyacinths.

Problem solving:

According to the RHS the main reasons for poor results are:

· Removing the bulbs too soon from their cool, dark conditions

· Too dry or too wet bulb fibre or compost

· The dark conditions not being cool enough

So make sure to keep an eye on your pots and vases and before you know it you will have a fantastic, thoughtful gift to share this Christmas.

Don’t forget to share your photos with us via social media using #HelpingTheUKGrow on @first_news, or upload your photos to our gallery and be part of our campaign.

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