The Online Magazine FOR and ABOUT Southside Virginia
Contributed By William H. McCaleb
Master Gardener Coordinator
Basics of Forcing Bulbs
is no need for anyone, gardener or not, to suffer through winter with only
barren landscapes and colorless views. Not when there are little horticultural
bundles of magic we call bulbs just waiting to push their heads through the
soil and make their cheery debut. And, as Katherine Whiteside writes in the
introduction of her book, Forcing, Etc., “…anyone with a window and
a wish can garden indoors.”
bulbs indoors for a wintertime splash of color is easy to do and need not be
expensive. Here’s how to get started:
Select the biggest bulbs of hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, crocus, muscari, or
Find a container with drainage holes that is slightly wider than all the bulbs
arranged together and two to three times as deep as the largest bulb, but not
deeper than a foot, nor shallower than 4 inches.
Fill the pot about halfway with well-draining soil.
Arrange the bulbs on the soil (flat, broad base down and pointy end up). They
can be almost touching. Turn tulip bulbs so their flat side faces the pot.
Cover with soil so the bulbs’ tips just disappear under the soil. Water
Place container in a cool, dark area at about 48 degrees for at least 12
weeks. A refrigerator will work as long as you do not store fruit in it at the
same time. Do not overwater but maintain a slightly moist soil. Keep in mind
that the bulbs need to be planted before chilling to allow for root growth.
When 12 weeks are up, your pot should be full of roots and show some growth
above the soil. You can now place the container in a bright window and
maintain watering. Most bulbs will bloom within three to four weeks.
Written by Master Gardener
tulips and hyacinths that have been forced indoors don’t usually rebloom the
next year even if planted outdoors. If you have forced bulbs that you would
like to try to save, cut off the flower stalk and keep the bulb watered and
fertilized. Keep the bulbs in a sunny window until danger of frost has passed,
then plant them in the flowerbed. You will probably see only foliage for the
first two or three years while the bulb builds itself up enough to flower
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