A bunch of plant bulbs.

What You Need to Know About Bulbs

It is normal to associate bulbs with gardens in springtime, but there are a number of varieties that will grow well indoors, giving color and scent throughout the year. For best results, use bulbs packed and marked as “indoor” varieties, or in the case of hyacinths, labeled “prepared.”

It is tradi­tional to grow bulbs in bowls of fibrous potting soil, but many will grow happily in glass containers, in water or water-retaining gels. Apart from hippeastrum and lilies, which can be brought indoors again in subsequent years, bulbs are best planted outside after flowering. The word “bulb” often refers to the food-storage organ of plants with a definite dormant season, but these are more accurately divided into bulbs and corms.

True bulbs, such as daffodils, are complete plants, with roots emerging from the “basal plate” (a modified stem), above which is a modified bud, containing the leaves and embryonic flower. Corms, such as crocuses, are solid stems from which buds containing the leaves and flowers emerge. Unlike bulbs, corms do not flower a second time, but produce new corms from lateral buds.


Flowers of the Knight's Star Lily - Amaryllidaceae Hippeastrum.

What You Need to Know About the Knight’s Star Lily – Amaryllidaceae Hippeastrum

The common name of this American native is amaryllis or knight’s star lily. The hybrids produce flowers, 6 in. (15 cm) wide, in spring, in colors ranging from white through shades of pink, orange, and yellow to velvety, deep reds. As well as plain-colored petals, there are varieties with flecks, stripes, and different colored edges.

Up to four flowers are produced on a single stem: a large bulb may produce two stems. The long, strap like leaves do not start to grow until the flower stalk is well advanced.

Size: Height 18 in. (45 cm).

Light: Direct sunlight.

Temperature: Normal room.

Moisture: Keep moist.

Feeding: Use high potash fertilizer every two weeks from after the flowers begin to fade until fall when the leaves are dried off.


Flowers of the Hyacinth Plant - Hyacinthus Orientalis.

What You Need to Know About the Hyacinth Plant – Hyacinthus Orientalis

Hyacinths clan produce their brightly colored, highly scented flowers at any time from early winter to early spring, according to when they are planted. Bulbs planted in early fall should flower in time for Christmas.

The most commonly available form is the traditional H. orientalis, originally from west and central Asia, which has a single flower stem per bulb. Each flower stem carries up to 40 waxy flowers in colors ranging from pure white, through cream, yellow, and orange to pink, red, violet, and blue, over a period of 2—3 weeks.

Cultivars include: H.o ‘Multiflora White,’ with multiple stems and white flowers; H.o ‘Jan Bos,’ with red flowers, and H.o. ‘Delft Blue,’ with blue flowers.

Size: Height 20-30 cm (8-12 in).

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Cool; 65°F (18°C).

Moisture: Keep moist.

Feeding: Not necessary.


What You Need to Know About the Lilium – Liliaceae

The lily genus is a large one, comprising around 100 bulbous perennial species. These vary considerably in height and flower size, shape, and color, but they share certain charac­teristics, such as that the bulb is always made up of fleshy, white or yellow scales (these may turn purple when they are exposed to light). Lily bulbs can be bought throughout the winter and spring — choose ones that are plump and glossy, not shriveled or dry.

Plant immediately, keeping the “nose” or tip of the bulb just under the surface of the soil. L. regale, the regal lily from western China, is a fairly tall plant for indoors. In common with other lilies, it prefers a cool spot, perhaps a porch or shady conservatory.

The trumpet-shaped (lowers are produced in summer. They are white with a yellow throat, heavily scented, and up to 6 in. (15 cm) across. The cultivar L. ‘Casa Blanca’ has a stunning scent to match its huge, pure white flowers. L. speciosum originated in China, Japan, and Taiwan, and has highly scented, white bowl-shaped flowers with red markings, 3—5 in. (7—12 cm) across.

Size: Height 3—4 ½ ft. (1—1.3 m)

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Cool, but above freez­ing at night in spring.

Moisture: Keep soil thoroughly moist as the plant grows and flowers. After flowering, reduce to keep soil just moist as the plant dies down.

Feeding: Use high potash fertilizer, such as tomato fertilizer, every two weeks from when the flower begins to fade until the leaves die down, espe­cially if the bulb is to be grown indoors again the following season.

Propagation: Break healthy scales from the bulb before planting. Place in a plastic bag of moist soil mix and put in a warm, dark place, such as a n open cupboard. Within 6—8 weeks, tiny new bulblets will begin to form on the lower edges of the scales. These can be potted up and grown on.

Special needs: Lily pollen can mark polished surfaces and clothes when brushed against or when it falls, so remove anthers as they develop. Lilies can be brought into flower the follow­ing season by repotting in fall, after the foliage has died down.


What You Need to Know About the Narcissus – Amaryllidaceae

The narcissus genus is enormous and varied in both size and flower form, ranging from tiny, 4 in. (10 cm) high, dwarf types to traditional, tall, garden varieties of 2 ft. (60 cm) high. The species originates from a range of places, including North Africa and the Mediterranean, China and Japan. Many daffodils or narcissi can be brought inside to flower with great success, especially in a cool, well-lit porch or conservatory, away from frosts and high winds.

The flowers come in yellow, white, orange, cream, and more recently, pink, and can be single or clustered, with single or double petals. Recommended vari­eties include: N. ‘Bridal Crown’ 12—18 in. (30—45 cm) high, cream, double; N. papyraceus (also known as the paper-white narcissus), 12—18 in. (30—45 cm) high, white, highly scented; N. ‘Sundial,’ 6—12 in. (15—30 cm) high, yellow, wide-flowered; N. ‘Tête-à-tête,’ 6—12 in. (15—30 cm) high, yellow, multi-headed.

Size: See individual species.

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Keep cool; 60—65°F (16—18°C).

Moisture: Keep moist.

Feeding: Not necessary.

Propagation: These bulbs will repro­duce naturally.


What You Need to Know About the Tulip – Liliaceae Tulipa

Not as easy as some of the other bulbs to grow indoors, tulips are neverthe­less well worth persevering with. Choose varieties that are labeled for indoor growing, such as hybrids of T. greigii or T. kaufmanniana, as these are less likely to be affected by the warmer conditions and become drawn and weak. Both have a range of flower colors, with either plain or striped petals, and both have attrac­tively marked foliage.

Tulip species are from central Asia. Recommended varieties are: T. ‘Giuseppe Verdi’, a T. kaufmanniana form, which is 6—12 in. (15—30 cm) high, with yel­low and red striped flowers and 71 ‘Red Riding Hood,’ a T. greigii form with red flowers. T. praeslans unicum has leaves which are broadly edged with white and up to five flow­ers per stem, each red with a yellow base and black anthers.

Size: See individual species.

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Keep cool; 60—65°F (16—18°C).

Moisture: Keep moist.

Feeding: Not necessary.

Special needs: After flowering, the bulbs will often recover and flower again in subsequent years if they are planted outdoors.


Flowers of Crocus Plant - Iridaceae.

What You Need to Know About the Crocus Plant – Iridaceae

A corm originating from mid- and southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, many species of crocus can be grown indoors, from the smaller-flowered C. chrysanthus, which flowers in mid- to late winter, to the slightly later C. vernus (late winter) and the large-flowered Dutch hybrids, which flower in late winter to early spring. The cup-shaped flowers come in a variety of colors, arid can be plain or striped. All have long, thin, green and white striped leaves.

Size: Height to 8 in. (20 cm).

Light: Direct sunlight.

Temperature: Cool; 65°F (18°C).

Moisture: Keep moist.

Feeding: Not necessary.

Propagation: This plant will reproduce naturally every year.

Special needs: None


Flower of Freesia Plant - Iridaceae.

What You Need to Know About the Freesia Plant – Iridaceae

Normally found as cut flowers in the florist’s shop, freesias are easy to grow from dry corms and provide a long-lasting display. The funnel-shaped flowers are often highly fragrant and are available in a range of colors, such as red, orange, pink, white, blue, lilac, arid yellow. The long, thin, lance shaped leaves are bright green and arranged in a flat fan shape. Freesias originate from South Africa.

Size: Height to 18 in. (45 cm).

Light: Mainly indirect sunlight, with some direct sunlight.

Temperature: Keep cool; maximum 65°F (18°C).

Moisture: Keep moist until flowering has finished, then gradually reduce to dry the corms for winter storage.

Feeding: Standard liquid fertilizer every week once buds appear. Propagation and special needs as for Crocus.