I use an assortment of ceramic bowls and terracotta pots, but the crucial thing to remember when choosing which to use is that they must be deep enough to allow the bulb to sit just beneath the soil surface and roomy enough to allow for root growth.

Preparation on the kitchen table

The length of time hyacinth bulbs require in the cool and dark varies but the average is around 8 weeks in the dark and just over 2 weeks in the light. If you’d like to guarantee that they are in flower over Christmas then the end of September is the safest time to plant.

NB. I bought bulb fibre compost and wore gardening gloves to avoid any skin irritation caused by handling the bulbs.

Hyacinths
These will need a good stint in the cool and dark before being brought into the light.
For Christmas flowering, make sure you buy bulbs labeled ‘prepared’
Put a base layer of compost in the bottom of the bowl/pot and dampen lightly.
Place the bulbs onto the compost – not touching each other, or the edges of the container – and fill in and around with compost.
The tops of the bulbs should just be showing above the compost and the surface of the compost should be just below the rim of the container.
Dampen the compost.
Place the container in a cool, dark situation and cover with black plastic or similar to keep the bulbs in the dark.
Check compost regularly – and water so damp rather than wet.

Hyacinths planted in a nest of twigs and moss

Paper Whites
Bulbs should flower 6-8 weeks after planting.
As with hyacinths, buy bulbs prepared for Christmas or indoor flowering.
Put a layer of compost in the base of the container and place the bulbs on the compost so they are close but not touching.
Top up the container with compost, leaving a space between the surface and the edge of the bowl / pot.
The tips of the bulbs should be just below the compost.
Water to dampen the compost and leave on a sunny windowsill.
Using Pussy Willow to support the greenery as it appears creates a Christmassy effect and is also helpful to keeping the plants upright.

Paper White bulbs ready to be covered with compost