Gardening Tips: Forcing Flower Bulbs

How to have fresh flowers all winter long in your home, if you force flowers to bulb. Information on storing bulbs and protecting outdoor bulbs.

You can have flowers all year round by forcing bulbs to bloom indoors. Plant an amaryllis or paperwhite narcissus in the late fall and you will have beautiful, fresh flowers for the Christmas holidays. Spring will begin early by potting irises, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips and crocuses in pretty containers or baskets in the winter. For great color and fragrance, plant several different types of bulbs together in clusters which add interest to your indoor flower garden. To make sure you have blooms all year long, plant a pot each week.

It takes approximately twelve weeks for the bulb to bloom, with the exception of paperwhites and amaryllis, which only take about four to eight weeks. Bulbs can be re-used after blooming and stored easily. The key to healthy plants is to give the bulb an artificial winter by placing it in a cold, dark location after it has been planted and watered. The temperature should stay above freezing, though. Make sure that you water just enough during the duration of the process to keep the soil from drying out.

To begin, choose a pot that is at least twice as tall as your bulbs. Fill the container about 3/4 full with lightweight potting soil, then press the bulbs gently into the soil. The pointed side of the bulb should face upwards and should be even with the top of the pot. Water thoroughly and add more soil around the bulbs. Place in a cold garage, basement or the refrigerator. When the shoots are about two inches tall, bring the pot indoors and keep in indirect sunlight at a temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten days. They can be moved later to a sunny spot but keep away from heating vents and heat drafts. The flowers should bloom in approximately three to four weeks. The blooming period will last longer if the pot is kept cool enough.

Another method is to place smooth stones in a bowl and fill with water. Then place the bulb so that the bottom of the bulb barely touches the water.

NOTE: Although you can re-use bulbs that have already bloomed from outside gardens, most bulbs that have been force indoors cannot be re-used. The exceptions to this are paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs.

Bulbs that have been replanted outside again will not do too well the first year but they will do very well the next year, and afterwards. Daffodils and crocuses need to be divided every few years. This should be done in the spring. Be careful to not bruise, cut, or damage the roots when doing so. Use a mulch to keep the bulbs from freezing in the winter.

To keep squirrels and mice from digging up and eating your outside bulbs try planting them away from walls and foundations where they tend to build their nests. Place pepper flakes around the plants and your rodent problem should be solved.

Store bulbs in an airtight container. An empty coffee can works well for this. Place in a cabinet until you are ready to plant them. No air or humidity should be able to get into the container.

Flowers in your house all winter long create a sense of harmony, serenity, and fragrance. Potting bulbs once a week is so easy to do and you will love the colorful effects and cheeriness the flowers will lend throughout the whole year.

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