netherlands flower bulb information centre


Buy bulbs green, while they still have lots of growing to do, then acclimate them for the garden once frost danger is past.


Dillydallied all fall or forgot to plant your tulips? Never fear. Instant spring is right around the corner. Those plastic pots of colourful tulips, hyacinths and daffodils sold in spring at supermarkets and floral shops are just what you need. Though intended for use indoors, these potted bulbs can easily be planted outdoors as bedding plants, according to Sally Ferguson, director of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Centre.

“To a tulip, erratic spring weather is business as usual,” says Ferguson. “Even nursery-grown bulb plants can usually take whatever Mother Nature dishes out, if you prep them before planting outdoors.”

If outdoor temperatures are still flirting with freezing in your area, acclimate the potted bulbs by placing them in an unheated, but protected spot for a day to toughen them up before planting outdoors.

After planting, acclimated forced bulbs will be oblivious to cold and even sudden snowstorms. Bulb plants are tough customers, whether fall-planted or forced in pots and prepared for spring planting. If zapped by frost after planting, young plants and buds will be unharmed, though fully-open flowers and leaf tips may get the equivalent of freezer burn.

For instant spring in the garden using potted bulbs, Ferguson suggests checking the NFBIC’s website,, for ideas and by following these three easy tips:

  • One: Wait until the crocus and daffodils in your area start coming up in gardens — that’s your cue that the season for potted-bulbs-as-bedding-plants has begun.

  • Two: Choose potted bulbs that are still green — in bud but not in bloom. Top candidates include: tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, plus little Iris reticulata and dwarf narcissi, anemone blanda, muscari and crocuses. All are widely available and of best quality in the market this time of year.

  • Three: Once home, water the pots well, then place them in a cold but protected area (above freezing) for a day so they can acclimate to colder temperatures before you plant them out, she says.

Slip off the plastic pot and plant the whole works ‘as is’ into the garden or in large containers, just as you would potted petunias or impatiens in early summer.

For longest enjoyment wherever you use them — indoors, outdoors, even as gifts — it’s best to choose potted bulbs with the buds still tight and green, Ferguson advises. “That’s what’s special about potted bulbs, watching them grow then come into bloom,” she says. “Unless you’re having a party tonight, choose green.”

A pot of young tulips or hyacinths displayed indoors at normal room temperature, for example, will grow and bloom over a period of up to two weeks or more, she said, while outside, where the spring weather is still cool, they can grow for a month or longer.

“The trick is to put them into the ground or large containers once the weather begins to turn,” says Ferguson. “Given a little acclimation up front, nursery-grown potted bulbs will happily settle in outdoors as if they’d been there all along.”

Whether enjoyed in the garden or in the kitchen, colorful potted tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other bulbs are a welcome source of instant spring this time of year.