Flower Bulbs

What is it about flower bulbs? To many, the name bulb conjures up images of netting bags at the local nursery or possibly onions, leaks and garlic, rather than magnificent flowers bursting into colour when they bloom.

This is a pity, as some of our most beautiful flowers are grown from bulbs, including tulips, daffodils and lilies. And the good news is, you can have these lovely flowers bringing amazing colour to your home.

What exactly is a bulb?

Flower Bulbs - Daffodils

A bulb is a fleshy, roundish, underground stem that is a resting stage of some plants. Designed as a storage mechanism for periods of low water such as drought or a cold winter, bulbs allow plants to survive these long dry months and then grow rapidly and burst into colour after their dormancy.

There are other plant structures that look like bulbs but aren’t. These include rhyzomes (e.g. iris), tubers (like the potato) and corms (such as the crocus).

Forcing Bulbs

Forcing is when you artificially induce a bulb to bloom when you want it to, rather than when it would naturally. While most spring-blooming bulbs can be forced, check with the store where you buy them which ones are more suitable for forcing.

Can I plant them indoors?

The good news is yes, you can! Some bulbs you need to chill, others you don’t. I recommend that if you’re in a hotter climate like Australia where if you try to force bulbs in summer you’ll struggle to find a cool spot for them, you should rather pop them in the fridge.

Selecting a Good Bulb

When shopping for bulbs, buy bulbs that are firm, not shrivelled or damaged. If there are different sizes, choose the larger if it’s in your price range. Larger bulbs are healthier.

Popular Bulbs

Some of the more popular flower bulbs you can try are:

  • tulips
  • snowdrops
  • muscari
  • hyacinths
  • daffodils
  • narcissi
  • crocus (not really a bulb, but a “corm”)

Planting a Spring-Blooming Bulb

A spring bulb should be planted in autumn or winter. Which season depends on the specific bulb.

  1. Get a pot, put some pebbles in it for drainage
  2. Partly fill it with a nice indoor potting soil
  3. Place the bulb the right way up (roots pointing downwards). If you’re planting more than one, put a gap of a couple of centimetres between them
  4. Fill the rest of the pot with soil so that the bulb is about 2cm (0.8 inches) from the top
  5. Give it a good watering
  6. Keep the pot in a dark, cool place. If you don’t have a suitable cool, dry place then you can put the pot in the fridge!
  7. During this time, keep the soil moist
  8. When the bulb looks like it’s ready to bloom (it’ll be quite swollen), move the pot into direct sunlight
  9. Your flower bulb should bloom into beautiful colour!