Planting Winter Flowering Bulbs in the Autumn

Planting Winter Flowering Bulbs in the Autumn

13 September 2021

By Nicola Donaldson, Scotland Commissioner (Cubs)

Planting Winter Flowering Bulbs in the Autumn

In November I usually realise that I would have liked to plant bulbs with the Cubs, earlier in the Autumn, to flower in the winter. Although not a fruit, vegetable or herb, at the Section Leader’s discretion, planting and caring for bulbs could count towards requirement 3 of the Cubs Gardener Activity Badge and requirement 4 if the Cubs make labels to identify what they have planted.

If this is an activity you would like to try with your Cubs, or other Section, you will need:

Bulbs: Hyacinth that have been ‘heat treated’, ‘prepared’ or ‘forced’ so that they will flower early or Amaryllis. The bigger the bulb the better the flowers!

Container with drainage holes

Compost or bulb fibre

Gloves as some bulbs can irritate the skin

Plant Hyacinth bulbs so that the pointed end is just above the surface of the compost and water lightly to moisten the compost. Put the bulbs in a cool dark spot where the temperature is 10°C or less, cover with an old blanket or a thick layer of newspapers and check regularly for about 6 weeks (or 10 weeks if bulbs weren't forced). Make sure to keep the compost moist, and when the shoots are 5cm high, move them to a light and airy spot to bring on flowers.

After flowering, cut off the flower leaving the stem but continue to water until the leaves start to fade. When dry, the hyacinth bulbs can be planted outdoors as they won’t flower well twice indoors.

Amaryllis will do best in a pot that is 2 to 3cm larger in diameter than the bulb. Plant them so that the top two thirds of the bulb is above the surface and keep on a sunny windowsill. Water sparingly until leaves grow never allowing the pot to sit in water.

Amaryllis will flower repeatedly each year in winter if watered throughout the year until mid-August when they can be moved to a cool shady spot to dry out. In mid-October return them to the sunny windowsill, cut off the leaves, give it some plant food and start watering again.

We have planted Paperwhite Narcissi as an indoor activity in November and the flowers had a wonderful fragrance. Plant the bulbs tightly together in compost or fine gravel that is twice as deep as the bulb with the pointed tip of the bulb exposed and water sparingly. Keep in a cool place where the temperature is 10°C or less and check regularly until the shoots are 5cm high then move them to a brighter warmer location. Cubs could also try experimenting with other types of Spring flowering bulbs, perhaps snowdrops, tulips or daffodils, to see how they compare when kept in a warm environment to the same bulb planted outdoors. This could meet requirement 3.f of the Cubs Scientist Activity Badge.

Full information on the Cubs Gardener Activity Badge is available at Cubs Gardener Activity Badge | Scouts. There are suggestions for six other activities to help achieve the badge. The requirements for the Cubs Scientist Activity Badge are available at Cubs Scientist Activity Badge | Scouts along with 16 activity ideas.