Now’s the time to force a few spring flowering bulbs
In just 15 minutes you can plant a beautiful garden guaranteed to brighten your spirits and indoor décor this winter. All you need is a container with drainage holes, potting mix and some tulips, daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs. Once you have gathered the needed materials, you can get started planting.
Select bulbs labeled for forcing, shorter varieties that are less likely to flop or bulbs that didn’t make it into the garden this fall. Plant a container of one type of bulb or use a combination for added color, texture, form and a longer bloom time. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are most common, but you may want to add another layer of color with shorter bulbs like crocus, squills, and grape hyacinths.
Select a container with drainage holes and cover the bottom with an inch or two of well-drained potting mix. Set the bulbs on the potting mix with the pointed side, if it has one, up and root side down. Place the flat side of the tulip bulb toward the outside of the pot for a better display. Pack the container full of bulbs for an impressive display. Cover the bulbs with soil and water thoroughly.
Or create a garden of spring flowers in a pot using a variety of large and small bulbs. Place the largest bulbs on the lowest level of a large container. Cover with soil and add the medium sized bulbs. Cover these and add the smallest bulbs. Then cover with several inches of potting mix and water thoroughly.
Move potted bulbs to a cold location with temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees for 15 weeks to initiate flowering. This is often the most challenging part of the process. Place the potted bulbs in a spare refrigerator where you do not store fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene that can interfere with flowering. Otherwise, sink the pot in the ground, or set it in an unheated garage away from the door with a bit of insulation around the pot. Water thoroughly whenever the soil is dry.
Start removing the pots from cold storage after 15 weeks of chilling. Extend your enjoyment by removing the pots at one- or two-week intervals.
Move the chilled container of bulbs to a cool location with indirect light for two weeks. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil moist. Move them to a bright sunny window when the leaves are about four to six inches tall. Bright sunlight and temperatures around 65 degrees Fahrenheit will give you the best results. You’ll be enjoying flowers in about three to four weeks after removing them from storage.
Use pots of forced bulbs as centerpieces or flowering accents indoors. Save a few to use outdoors on your balcony, deck or front steps for added color in your spring landscape. Dress up your display by placing the pots in window boxes or planters and cover with mulch or moss.
Planting and forcing bulbs will help keep you gardening as the days grow shorter and colder. And when you’ve had just about all the winter you can stand, it will be time to break out the forced bulbs for a bit of spring color.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments. Myers’ website, www.MelindaMyers.com, features gardening videos, podcasts, audio tips and monthly gardening checklists.