Whether you planted them or bought them, bowls of Christmas bulbs are lovely to have around. Their fragrance scents the air. Their colour brightens the atmosphere. They confirm that spring will come again and that it is really only just around the corner, however atrocious the weather and gloomy the light.

Bowls of Christmas bulbs make an ideal Christmas present! And, of course, they're not just for Christmas. We tell you what to do next.

Late winter / early spring hyacinth. Christmas bulbs

Late winter / early spring hyacinth. © Amy West and reused under CC BY 2.0 licence.

Buy Christmas bowls of bulbs

Don't worry if you didn't find time to plant any Christmas bulbs, back in September. Go to the garden centre or florist and buy some, hyacinths or narcissi perhaps, either in individual pots or in a bowl. Make them look special by putting sphagnum moss around them. (Get sphagnum moss from the florist, not from the wild as all moss is protected.) Add a little sparkle with tinsel, and silver or gold cones. Wrap a big swathe of ribbon around the bowl and tie in a bow.

Ribbon. Christmas bulbs

Ribbon. © bambe1964 and reused under CC BY-ND 2.0 licence.

What next, if you planted Christmas bulbs earlier?

Your lucky bulbs will have had a cold and dark period in the garage or shed, or up against a north-facing wall. They've been spending their time developing a good root system which will help them to push their leaves and flowers up and out. When the shoots are 4-5cm long (1½-2in), bring the pots into a cool room away from bright light so the leaves will green up.

Where do I put the bulbs?

Put them close to a window in warmish surroundings but not in a draught or close to heat. A shelf above a radiator is not a good place!

Bulbs like a humid atmosphere. Put your bowl (or pot or vase) on a shallow tray of moist gravel, with the water level below the base of the pot.

If the leaves grow faster than the flower buds, move the bowl to a cooler place and cover it to keep it dark. Only do this for a day or two as the leaves may begin to turn pale.

Check regularly to see if the pots need watering or the vases topping up.