This year, I've got several pots of paperwhite narcissus scattered around the house. I'm also trying some freesia bulbs for the first time, for some added color. Both paperwhite narcissus and freesia have pretty, fragrant flowers and smallish bulbs that can be packed into a houseplant pot, or any other appropriate container that might be lying around. I picked up the bulbs for both plants at my local Orchard Supply Hardware, but they're basically everywhere this time of year.
To start, I planted the bulbs in a mixture of potting soil and vermiculite. Vermiculite is a granular mineral used in gardening that helps keep soil loose and moist. It's good for planting bulbs because their roots need good drainage and consistent moisture. I also put a layer of gravel in the bottoms of my pots to keep the soil well drained so the bulbs don't rot. There are lots of sites that provide bulb forcing instructions online if you need them, including this one. But, honestly, it's really easy and hard to screw up.
For the first two weeks, I kept my planted bulbs in the basement, where it's cold and dark. This helps them establish good roots before they start sprouting up. During that time, I kept the soil mixture moist with frequent watering.
Once the roots were established, I took my pots upstairs and spread them around the house near sunny windows. They're looking good so far, and I can see some flower stems coming up on a couple of them. When they bloom, the narcissus and freesia will release a light, fresh scent that'll make the house smell great. Plus, they'll be pretty. If I can find some more planting containers, I may plant another group this weekend so that I can have flowering bulbs in the house for the whole holiday season.
After my narcissus and freesia have finished blooming, I'll cut them back and plant them in the yard. They may not come up out there unless we have a good rainy season this year, but I think it's worth the attempt. I planted some last year, and actually noticed a few green shoots coming up the other day. Technically, outdoor bulbs are supposed to bloom in the Spring, but in Southern California none of those rules seem to apply.