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How to force fritillaries

Forcing hardy bulbs by growing them outside until a few weeks before their natural bloom time is basically a technique that has been used since Roman times. It is very simple in that you let the bulbs get exactly the same chill period and light that they would naturally, and then you accelerate the arrival of spring by taking them inside.

It means that you get blooms 4-6 weeks earlier than you would outside and also get to appreciate delicate flowers like this snakeshead fritillary up close.

You need:

  • Snakeshead fritillary corms (or any other small hardy bulb like muscari, crocus, scilla, snowdrop)
  • Old plastic pots
  • Compost
  • Large container for indoors
  • Handful of grit or fine gravel
  • Moss

Step 1

Fill a selection of old plastic pots with compost and plant the fritillaries, very close together but not touching. Cover with 2-3 cm compost, water and put somewhere sheltered outside away from squirrels.

Step 2

Leave for 12-16 weeks - check that they don’t blow over or dry out but otherwise they don’t need any special treatment. It is a great use of all those old plastic pots that we tend to accumulate.

After 12-16 weeks they should be ready to grow - you will see the shoots well established.

Step 3

Get your final container, add a handful of grit to the bottom to act as a reservoir, put in a layer of compost and carefully transplant the pots of fritillaries.

Step 4

Water carefully then cover the soil with torn up bits of moss.

Keep the arrangement as cool as possible so it lasts longer.

After flowering is finished you can plant the fritillaries into grass or a border. They like damp conditions, originally a water meadow plant, and when they are happy they will gently self sow.

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