Growing blooming bulbs on water
Flower bulbs grown on water make for a fantastic floral display. Hydroponics are also a convenient way to grow bulbs, offering a no-fuss and no-mess solution that works well, especially if you want to grow your bulbs inside. Growing bulbs on water is growing in popularity and it is a really interesting and easy method once you get a couple of things right to begin with.
How to grow bulbs on water
Firstly, bear in mind that not all bulbs can be grown this way. The ones you’ll be working with in winter are hyacinths, Muscari (grape hyacinth), cold-treated tulips, Narcissus (daffodils), especially the paperwhites, and in summer Hippeastrum (amaryllis).
You can use a specially designed glass vase, those that look like hourglasses are particularly easy, and this way you can see the roots growing too. Alternatively, any glass or ceramic bowl will do. You’ll need pebbles, stones, marbles or gravel that the bulb can sit on and nestle into comfortably, ensuring that it doesn’t fall over. About 10cm fill should do the trick. The main thing is to make sure that the roots will be able to make their way down to the water without the bulb actually sitting in water. It needs to be kept high and dry…
If you’re using a bulb vase or a carafe, the bulb will sit snuggly in the neck of the container.
All of these bulbs have pointy ends, and that’s the bit that must be up. Once you have your placement right, fill the bowl or vase with water to just below the bottom of the bulbs.
Light requirements for growing bulbs hydroponically
You should place your winter bulbs in a dark cupboard, in the coldest room in your house for a few weeks to stimulate root development (just don’t forget that they’re in there). On the opposite spectrum, your summer bulbs can be placed somewhere in a warm spot with indirect sunlight.
Once you notice the roots growing down and a 1-2 cm sprout, you can bring the winter bulb bowl out into the light. Like most flowering plants, all these varieties like plenty of light, just not a position where they get direct sunlight as they can get scorched. The heat will also inhibit growth of winter bulbs, so don’t place them where they’ll get hot north or west-facing sunshine, or anywhere near heaters. Summer bulbs, on the other hand, do well with the warmth.
Keep an eye on the water level, topping it up as evaporation occurs, once again ensuring that the bottom of the bulb isn’t touching the water. If the water turns cloudy greenish, then add cut flower food such as Chrysal to check bacterial growth. It will also add nutrients to the water that helps develop healthy blooms. If you haven’t any to hand, it’s okay to replace the water every now and then, preferably using rain or dechlorinated water (running it through a Brita water filter or the like should do the trick).
Don’t forget to turn the vase or bowl a quarter turn every few days or so to ensure that the stem grows straight, otherwise they’ll start reaching towards the sunny side and probably topple over. Wooden or wired stakes can be used if the stems become too tall and threaten to tip over.
Then all you need to do is wait for the stems, the leaves and eventually the flowers to pop through and fill your home with beauty and fabulous fragrance.
Winter bulbs grown hydroponically can be discarded after blooming. Amaryllis grown hydroponically can be transplanted into the garden.