Force Bulbs for Winter Show

November 22, 2011 at 10:20 AM Leave a comment


Force Bulbs for Winter Show

Grape hyacinths in pot by window.

Does the thought of beautiful flowers blooming during winter appeal to you? Well, you can enjoy the blooms of daffodils, tulips, narcissus, hyacinths and other bulbs indoors by “forcing” them into blooming early for you.

Select and fill the container

Let’s get started. Select a container with good drainage. Most houseplant containers work well. Fill one-half to three-quarters of the container with a good potting soil and mix in some bonemeal or bulb fertilizer. Add water to moisten the soil.

Choose your bulbs

Now for the fun part—selecting and planting your bulbs. You can plant both large and little bulbs. Large bulb plants include daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and tulips. Crocus, muscari, scilla and snowdrops are examples of little bulb plants.

Plant the bulbs in the container

Place the bulbs with their pointed tip upwards on the moistened soil so that their tops are parallel to the top of the container. Make sure that the bulbs aren’t touching each other. Try planting bulbs in groups of three, five or seven. Odd-numbered plantings are pleasing to the eye. Tulip bulbs have a flat side that should be facing the outside of the container. Add more potting soil until the container is full and water well.

Let the bulbs chill

For bulbs to flower during winter, they need to be “tricked” into blooming early. This is called forcing. The process is quite simple and involves putting them in a cold place that is between 35 and 48 degrees F. You can use your refrigerator or an unheated basement or garage. Cover your newly planted bulbs with a dark garbage bag or a cardboard box so that they don’t receive any light. Keep the soil moist.

The amount of time the bulbs need to spend in cold storage, usually 12 to 16 weeks, varies depending on the type of bulb. You’ll know it’s time to move them when you see 2- to 3-inch-high green shoots or fine white roots. They will then need to be moved to a cool location, about 50 degrees F, with indirect light. Again, keep the soil moist. Turn your containers slightly every few days to help the stems to grow straight.

Bring the bulbs into the sun

Once the flower buds begin to swell, it’s time to move the containers to a sunny location without direct sunlight, At this point, you get a first-row seat from which to watch the buds unfold. When in full bloom, the flowers can last for weeks. Be sure you keep the soil moist but not soggy.

With a little preparation this fall, you can have beautiful flowers growing inside your home during those cold winter days.


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