Hyacinthus – Hyacinth
One of the best bulbs for forcing and using as an indoor plant is the hyacinth. Not only does it come in a full range of colours from orange, pink and yellow through to blue and deep purple, but it has the strongest scent of any of the spring bulbs. The scent of just one flower spike can permeate through the whole house.
Hyacinths are usually bought as bulbs in autumn and then either potted up in compost or grown in vases that suspend the bulb over a reservoir of water. Bulbs that are sold to be planted out in the garden can be used for indoors, and they will flower shortly before those in the garden. Specially prepared bulbs can also be bought, and these will flower much earlier than normal bulbs. You can buy bulbs in flower, although these will be dearer. If you are buying bulbs, make sure they are healthy looking and firm.
Plant close together in a shallow pot and cover with compost so that the tips of the bulbs are just below the surface and water in. If using a hyacinth vase, fill the vase up with water so that the level is just below where the bottom of the bulb sits; the roots should then quickly grow down into the water. Keep in a cool, dark spot, such as a garden shed, for around eight weeks. Check occasionally to ensure the containers have not dried out. Once shoots start to appear, move the bulbs into a light place, still keeping them cool. It should then take around three weeks for flower buds to form. Move the bulbs to a bright but cool windowsill.
After flowering, bulbs should be fed and watered until the leaves have completely died down.
Impatiens – Busy Lizzies
Impatiens are easy and rewarding plants to grow for use indoors. Many will provide a great display of brightly coloured flowers during summer and then flower intermittently through the rest of the year. Some also have attractively variegated and coloured leaves that complement the flower colour.
These are short-lived plants, and many are best treated as annuals and replaced after a year. This is not a problem, as tip cuttings take very easily. If you are keeping old plants, cut them back fairly hard each spring to produce a flush of new growth. Pinch tips out regularly to keep a compact and bushy shape.
Care is straightforward. Give plenty of light and water in summer and mist the leaves occasionally. One of the few problems is flower bud drop. This can occur if the compost is allowed to dry or the humidity is too low. In winter, continue watering moderately.
The classic busy Lizzies are the cultivars of Impatiens walleriana. Modern breeding has led to the development of compact plants.
These mounds of foliage can be covered in large flowers in a wide range of colours including pink, red, orange, purple and white.
The New Guinea hybrids are a recent development. They form larger, more robust plants than the busy Lizzies and many have attractively coloured foliage. Their flowers are larger than those of Impatiens Walleriana. Impatiens niamniamensis ‘Congo Cockatoo’ forms groups of brightly coloured, pouch-shaped flowers that hang beneath the leaf joints. When clustered under the leaves they look like brightly coloured tropical birds.