February 20 2019
Bulb crops give you a feeling of spring. They're flowers that emerge from their bulbs bursting with energy and colour. In February it’s often still too cold to see the bulbs that you planted in the garden in autumn emerge from the ground. But there’s a handy solution to this: potted bulb products, which are widely available in February thanks to the grower’s skill. Potted bulbs bring an early spring to the garden and the living room. When the first warm spell arrives, you can see the flowers bursting out of the pot as cheerful, fragrant heralds of spring.
Potted bulbs can be planted in the soil or in containers for on the balcony or patio. They are also all available as cut flowers. Within the potted bulb range, we see familiar products from the main species, each with a large number of cultivars in many colours and sizes. These potted bulb products - hyacinths, narcissi and grape hyacinths (Muscari) - are the real stars of the range. The larger the bulb that the growers have planted in the pots, the better the quality that emerges with more and larger flowers on a stem.
Potted bulbs: Hyacinth, Narcissus, Muscari: early spring in the garden!
There is something special about narcissus, hyacinths and Muscari. They need a period of cold in order to flower. So, if you want to enjoy them earlier than the normal flowering months (from March to May), the grower has to perform two tricks. First the (dry) bulbs need to spend a few weeks in low temperatures of between 5 and 10°C. Then the growers plant them in pots, and they are ‘forced’ in greenhouses at considerably higher temperatures as if spring has arrived. The plants then flower in February, tricked into thinking that it’s already spring.
The pot hyacinth is a beautifully scented plant in pink, white, blue, purple, salmon or pale yellow. The individual flowers on the stems are called claws. The pot narcissus also comes in a wide number of varieties, ranging from beautifully scented spray narcissi to flowers with everything from very small to gigantic trumpets, as well as double flowered varieties. The most important colours are yellow and white. We also see a lot of bicoloured varieties, on which the flower contains salmon pink and orange. The Muscari or grape hyacinth is a small, grape-shaped flower, usually blue. However, there are also white or purple ‘grapes’ and there are also crested grape hyacinths. Muscari is one of the most fabulous potted bulb products, and has a light musk scent, as is reflected in the name Muscari.
Caring for potted bulbs: Hyacinth, Narcissus, Muscari
The three different potted bulb plants - hyacinth, narcissus and Muscari - all require the same care to ensure they give you pleasure for a long time. The plants are undemanding in the garden - they can be placed in both the shade and the sun. Potted bulb products do particularly well even at temperatures around freezing. Indoors the plant requires a spot which is as cool as possible to ensure the longest flowering. Make sure that the soil never dries out. You should therefore water the plant regularly, but don’t get the bulbs too wet since this can cause them to rot. There’s no real need to feed, since most nutrients are already present in the bulb. And obviously the plants are only for decoration and not for consumption.
Storage tips for potted bulbs: Hyacinth, Narcissus, Muscari
When the flowers on the bulbs have finished blooming, you can store the bulbs in order to plant them in the garden again for the next growing season. This is easier with narcissi and grape hyacinths, since hyacinths are more prone to disease. Allow the foliage on the narcissi and grape hyacinths to die back fully in the pot. Then remove the bulbs from the pot and store them until October in a dry, dark place, such as a shed or cellar. Because these are spring flowering bulbs, they should be planted in the autumn. They will then experience a period of cold in winter, and will flower again in the spring from March.