Ever wondered what you can do with those lovely Daffodils-in-a-pot which a kind person gave you several weeks ago, the ones which have flowered their socks off for you indoors, and are now sad and wilting?
I am frequently asked if it is possible to plant them outdoors – this goes for Hyacinths and Crocuses (Croci?) as well and, to some extent, Tulips – and my answer is always “Yes!” followed by a snatch-and-grab of the pot, and a quick dash into the garden with a trowel.
Bulbs which have been forced for indoor sale one year can often establish themselves perfectly well outdoors: all you have to do is dig a decently deep hole for them, pop them in, leaving the leaves intact, and let them die down naturally.
The series of photos above show me doing this – one of my Clients was given a bowl of very tall, fancy paperwhite daffodils, not what I would normally choose to plant outdoors but we have a fairly sheltered area under a large Silver Birch tree, and on the grounds that they “may” survive outdoors, but definitely ”will not” survive in her green waste bin, I suggested that we plant them out.
(I say “we” but you know I mean “I”...)
When planting bulbs in grass – at whatever time of year - the routine is the same: take a small hand trowel, push it in to about half its depth and wiggle it from side to side to make a good slit.
Pull it out upwards, and make another slit at right angles, then tilt the trowel in order to lever out a triangular wodge of grass and earth.
Excavate into the hole thus formed, try to go down as far as you reasonably can. These bulbs are huge things, so I went the full depth of the trowel.
Having shaken off all the dried out, exhausted compost in which they were planted, put the bulb into the 'ole, with the stems against one of the walls, ie not plonked in the very middle of the hole.
Coil the white roots up underneath it as much as possible: at this point, I don't worry too much about damaging these roots, as some damage is inevitable, and usually the act of de-potting and separating the bulbs will cause some root damage. As you can see from the photos, some of the roots were trying to escape!
Use the excavated earth to backfill the hole, gently covering any escaping roots, then press down firmly: fold back the flap of turf – ah, now you see the point of placing the stem against one wall of the hole: the wall gives support to the stems and you can flap over the grass without crushing them. Press the flap down firmly as well.
The last photo shows the finished area, the foliage looks quite limp and tatty but it is imperative that you leave it in place to die down naturally, to give the bulbs a chance to store up enough energy to get them going again next season. It can sometimes be beneficial to give them a foliar feed: I usually do so, on the grounds that it can't do any harm.
I have been doing this for many years, in many gardens, and usually the bulbs succeed: Tulips are not as reliable as Daffs, as only the species Tulips are fully hardy: but again, if someone has presented you with a potful of them, and you don't have the time or inclination to dry out the bulbs and store them over the summer, then it's always worth trying them outside. Amaryllis, those gigantic Christmas gift bulbs, are a different matter, though: they are not hardy at all, so they would not survive outside.
I would say that about a third of the time, post-flowering Daffodils come up blind (ie leaves but no flowers) the next year, but thereafter they generally all flower well, and in time, they bulk up and spread.
Will the paperwhites do the same? Who knows – but for ten minutes of effort, it is well worth trying!