If you would like to have fresh tulips, daffodils or the more traditional paperwhites or amaryllis for your holiday décor, now is the time to start planning and planting.
Some bulbs dont actually have to be planted in the traditional sense. Hyacinths can be grown in a forcing vase made especially for bulbs of their size using only water. Bulbs can also be planted in pebbles or glass beads again, using only water.
If you go to YouTube and search for forcing bulbs, youll find a few videos that will demonstrate bulb forcing and how to do it for tulips and daffodils as well as paperwhites and amaryllis. Several other bulbs can be forced indoors as well.
Paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs dont need a cooling period before theyll bloom since theyre tropical bulbs. They can be started closer to the holidays.
If youd like tulips, daffodils or hyacinth for the holidays (or in January or February when youre in flower deprivation mode), you need to start now.
Dutch Growers (www.dutchgrowers.ca/IG_forcebulbs.html) out of Saskatoon has simple forcing instructions and a chart showing cooling and growth periods for several different bulbs.
So get out the calendar and start counting backwards from the date when you want fresh flowers around the house.
OK, youve watched the videos and read the instructions. But theres more to being successful at forcing bulbs. Here are some tips and tricks.
When storing the bulbs during the cooling (or rooting) period, they need to be at about 40 to 48 degrees. Dont put them in the same storage container (refrigerator, root cellar, etc) with fruits or vegetables. Some fruits and vegetables give off gases that can inhibit the growth of flower buds.
If using a forcing vase or pebbles, the water should be up to about 1/8 inches below the bulb. If the bulb sits in water, it will rot. Here in the arid West where water evaporates rapidly, that means checking your bulbs daily for water level. Yes, even during the cooling period.
If mixing varieties of bulbs in a container, make sure they have the same cooling and growth periods. You wouldnt want to mix a bulb with an eight-week cooling period with a bulb with a 17-week cooling period or no cooling period at all.
Dont fertilize the bulbs as salts could build up in the soil, harming the plant. Everything the plant needs is in the bulb.
When the bulbs are finished with the cooling period (and have a nice set of roots), keep the plant in indirect sunlight at about 60 degrees. When the plant is 4-to-6 inches tall, it can be moved to direct sunlight and kept at about 68 degrees.
Keeping the plants in a cooler place at night will extend the life of the blooms.
After the blooms are spent and the foliage dies back, you can plant the bulb in your garden. However, it may never come back and if it does, it will most likely never bloom again. Most sources I researched advised tossing the spent bulbs in the compost heap.
If you have particular questions about gardening youd like to see addressed in this column, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.