Forcing Spring Bulbs in Winter
An Easy Delight

There is nothing that brightens up a gardeners winter day like having a pot of spring bulbs blooming on a windowsill.

Daffodils, the miniature varieties like Tete a Tete are best; Hyacinths, with their pervasive perfume, and the tiny but colourful crocus are the easiest to grow. Now we can certainly stop at any supermarket and purchase a pot of these but with a little forethought we can also satisfy our need for indoor gardening time.

potted bulbs, forcing bulbs When DO I Do It? Anytime in the fall and early winter we can put a few bulbs in a pot and have them bloom a few weeks later. Spring bulbs bloom in the spring,(now there's a self evident truth,) as the soil warms up and wakens them but they will not grow and bloom if they have not had a cold period to overcome their natural dormancy. That is why they are such delights in the cold temperate parts of our world and are of little use in the sub-tropical parts of the country.

The Tricky Bit! There is a certain secret delight in actually being able to grow something that will not grow in Florida. As with all houseplants, the secret to success is to be able to emulate the natural conditions of the plants that we are trying to grow. Filling a pot with some potting soil and burying a few bulbs in it is really rather easy. The most difficult part of forcing these bulbs into bloom is to simulate the natural cold period they would get if they were planted in our garden.

bulb forcing

How Do I Get Cold? I’m fortunate enough to live in an older house that actually has a cold cellar and that makes it easy. The problem is that the bulbs in pots cannot be allowed to freeze and that precludes the easy and obvious solution of just sitting them on the back porch. Obviously they would do well in your refrigerator but if you want to do more than one or two then there may be no room for the leftover Christmas turkey. It’s also just possible that your partner may be less enthusiastic about indoor gardening than you are and find the presence of several pots of dirt in the back of the fridge somewhat unappealing.

Be creative. An attached garage that shares a warm wall with the house or spot in the garden where they can be buried under a layer of straw can be utilized. Most bulbs need about 10 - 12 weeks of cold before they will bloom. The later you start the process the later in the winter they can be successfully brought into the warm and light, to bloom.

bulb forcing Keep Them Watered! When they are being potted up they need to be just covered by the soil and then they need to be thoroughly watered to initiate the root growth that should begin right away. You should also check them periodically over the cold period to make sure that they are still wet and water them if needed. Be generous when planting and stuff as many bulbs into a pot as you reasonably can; they will give you a much better show.

They will let you know when they are ready to bloom. Even when it is still cold and dark in their resting place they will start to push up shoots and that is your signal to start enjoying them. I try to bring up one or two pots a week over a few weeks in the late winter so that I have a continuous supply of bright blooms and fresh fragrance to greet me when I return from the ski hill.

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