Four ways to make the most of bulbs this autumn

Prepare your garden this winter with these four top tips on planting a festive bloom.

As autumn approaches and the daylight hours shorten, tending the garden may not be a priority for many people but this is in fact, one of the most important times of year. With the bulbing season nearly upon us, now is the time to consider the best bulbs for a Christmas bloom and how to put your bulbs to bed ready for a stunning display next spring and summer. 

1. A festive bloom 

Winter can be a gloomy and dull time of the year, if you want to ensure your house is best dressed for the festive season – inject a little colour into your life with vibrant plants that will bloom around the Christmas if planted now.


Plant hyacinth bulbs every two weeks from the end of September until mid- October to provide a variety of fragrant blooms;

  • For best results, half fill a bowl with bulb fibre or general multi compost – do not mix different varieties in one bowl. 
  • Place the bulbs on the surface (close enough but not touching) and fill around the bulbs with more compost up to 2cm below the rim of the bowl. Leave the tips of the bulbs showing and water. 
  • Leave the plant in a cool, dark place for 10 weeks (6 weeks if they are prepared bulbs) then bring the plant inside.  


Plant narcissus at the end of September to flower in time for Christmas, choose interesting containers to grow them in to make great gifts for family and friends. 

  • Place bulbs close together in containers filled with bulb fibre.
  • Leave the tips of the bulbs protruding slightly above the bulb fibre and water well. 
  • Leave the bulbs in a dark, cool place for 3 – 8 weeks and water occasionally.
  • Bring the bulbs inside once the shoots are 4-5cm tall.

2. Inside the life of a bulb

Waiting for the shoots of a bulb to peep through the soil is one thing but watching a bulb fully bloom under water is even more exciting. Growing hyacinths and narcissus in water and in a clear vase can be fun for all the family. As the tiny shoots feel their way to the bottom of the vase and the flower shoots out of the top – this is a great way to see the full life cycle of a bulb. 

Buy prepared bulbs which are firm and have no signs of mould – for best results buy a special forcing vase. The hourglass shape of a forcing vase holds the bulb above the water while its roots go in search of a drink. Don’t forget to wear gloves when touching hyacinth bulbs as they can irritate the skin.

  • Fill the vase with water just below the bulb but do not touch it.
  • Chill the hyacinth bulb for 10 weeks in a cool, dark place (if you buy prepared bulbs, you only need to chill for 6 weeks as part of the chilling process has been done already.)
  • After 6 – 10 weeks bring the bulb inside to the place where you want it to flower.
  • For narcissus, follow the above but you do not need to buy prepared narcissus bulbs as they only  require 3 – 8 weeks of chilling in a cool dark place.

3. Lasagna planting

There’s no need for your pots and beds to stand empty over autumn. Lasagne planting using evergreens, winter bedding and bulbs, is an easy way to enjoy flowers through winter and spring. 

With lasagne planting, pots and beds are planted with alternate layers of bulbs, bedding plants and evergreens. The biggest and latest flowering bulbs go in first, with layers of earlier flowering bulbs on top. Two layers of bulbs will give you a beautiful spring display but, if you're feeling adventurous, you can even go for three layers and add autumn bedding plants and evergreens at the top – layer different varieties of tulips in one container or a mix of tulips, hyacinths, muscari, crocus, tulips and narcissus.

4. Colourful combinations

The recipe to bulb success is to think creatively. Don’t just stick to one type of bulb in one container, experiment with lots of colour, different heights and plants that flower at different times. Here are some colourful combinations for you to try– plant single colours for a real style statement or mix to create your favourite combinations.

Blooming blues

Create a sea of blue with:

  • Tulip: Queen of the night
  • Hyacinths: Delft blue
  • Muscari: Armeniacum

A royal affair

Be bold and add a depth of colour with royal reds, royal blues and a dash of bright whites with:

  • Tulip: Red riding hood
  • Muscari: Armeniacum
  • Hyacinths: Carnegie

Passionate pinks

Add a hint of hot pink to a bunch of blossoming whites with:

  • Tulip: Purissima
  • Narcissus: Thalia
  • Tulip: Angelique

For more advice visit Wyevale Garden Centres

Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 2:29 pm Gardening