Although it’s too late to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs, we can play catch-up in spring’s floral stakes with potted bulbs sold in flower or coming into flower. Your mini spring show may not be as lasting as flowers go, as in the garden, but you can take steps to maximise their longevity
With daffodils, and particularly tulips, it’s risky to plant potted up and growing plants directly into the ground – there’s a good chance the root ball will break up when you take them out of their pot and the plants die as a result. However, you could cheat and plant bulb, pot and all for an instant display.
If you decide to enjoy your potted bulb inside – crocus, hyacinths, dwarf tulips, freesias and miniature daffs are beautiful potted choices for indoors – a key to maximise its flowering time is keeping it as cool as you can (around 8-14 degrees Celsius is ideal). Ideally the room should have good light and even warmth – not too hot. Sunlight is also good but not if it means exposing the bulb to warmer temperatures.
Whether inside or out, check your potted bulb regularly – containers dry out quickly, and if your bulb becomes too dry that will also shorten its display. Tulips need quite a lot of water, and although daffodils aren’t usually quite as thirsty you’ll still need to keep an eye on them. However if the soil is already wet, don’t water – they both hate soggy soil.
When your potted tulip finishes flowering, it’s easiest to treat it as an annual or cut flower and toss it out. Alternatively you can move it from view, cut off the dead flower, feed your bulb (use a bulb fertiliser or one relatively low in nitrogen), and leave it to die down naturally. Dig the bulb up in summer when it’s dried out completely and store in a cool, airy place – you’ll need to chill your bulb in the fridge for six weeks just before planting it out early next winter.
Daffodils are more straightforward. If you choose to keep them, deadhead and feed them, and firm soil around the neck of the bulbs – top it up if necessary, and allow foliage to die back naturally outside – when planting out, firm the soil well so narcissus fly larvae can’t get to the underlying bulb.