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Enjoy Blooming Bulbs in Winter

I like to force a few bulbs in winter, and fall is the time to plan for that, as a reminder that spring is on its way.

Hyacinth forcing bulbsBlooming bulbs are a beautiful and often fragrant way to bring the outdoors inside. Forcing is the process of coaxing flowering bulbs to bloom before their usual season.

Certain varieties of bulbs are associated with forcing. The first one I think of: paperwhite narcissus, or just paperwhites. Amaryllis and hyacinth are on the list, too, due to their large, showy flowers and wonderful fragrance.

You may be familiar with amaryllis, because their large bulbs and dramatic flowers are hard to miss. As for hyacinth, the fragrance will knock your socks off.

Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, snowdrops and any other spring-flowering bulb that will bloom outside after a cold winter (often called hardy bulbs) are suitable for forcing.

Read on and I’ll show you some of the possibilities for forcing bulbs!

Blooming Bulbs Fit Your Home Decor

There are lots of choices to consider when choosing bulbs for forcing. The variety of colors and shapes will surprise you. Flowers in white, red, purple, yellow and pink. Green stems and leaves. What a contrast to the winter cold and snow outside, in January and February.

Forcing bulbs are available to fit into any home décor.

I think anything that says “spring” is a charming addition to your home. The ancient Romans did it. Victorians did it. And you can, too.

Forcing Bulbs – How To

This process is meant to imitate the natural process of cooling and darkness, then warming and light that would occur if the bulbs were growing outdoors.

That’s why it varies somewhat depending on what kind of bulbs you want to force. Hardy, spring flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils need the cold phase for this. Paperwhites don’t.

By compressing the season for your chosen bulbs, you can have blooms when you want them.

These are general steps:

•Select high quality bulbs. Don’t buy bulbs that are soft or sprouting.

•Pot the bulbs. A well-drained clay pot will work well. Use some gravel for drainage in the bottom, and use a potting soil mixture of peat moss, sand, soil and vermiculite.

•Plant the bulbs as you would outdoors, with the right amount of soil over top. Leave the tips exposed for tulips.

•Plant only one type of bulb per pot, so you can give each variety the right amount of cold time. Label each pot so that you will know what it is, and when to bring it out of the cold.

That said, some bulbs, like paper whites, amaryllis and hyacinth, don’t need much or any soil. They can go into a pot, dish or glass designed for forcing them with just some gravel, or nothing at all.

Paperwhites don’t need the cold phase (described below). Amaryllis should have been put through dormancy when you buy them.

•Give the bulbs a good drink, but make sure they drain well. For those that will need a cold period, now is the time for them to go onto the back porch, cold room or another place where they will stay dark and safe from animals that would eat them, for 12 to 13 weeks.

•When the bulbs have shoots that are 2 to 3 inches high, bring out the pot and put it in a cool place, like an enclosed porch, unheated entry or bedroom that has been closed off – anywhere with temperatures in the 50s and indirect light. Keep it watered lightly.

•Once the buds form, move the plant to a sunny window where the temperature holds around 65 degrees. When the buds open, move to bright, indirect light to make the blooms last longer.

Bulbs forced in a pot with soil can be planted in the garden after their time is done, but don’t try to force them again. Those bulbs that have been forced in water will be exhausted, and should go to the compost barrel.

Once you try a few bulbs, you might be hooked on forcing bulbs every year!


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