Holiday Gifts that Grow on You
Now is the time to plan and plant flower bulbs for both holiday decoration and gifts. The holiday season is fast approaching so time is of the essence. Planting bulbs indoors allows for the technique known as “forcing”, or fooling the bulbs in to thinking that it is time to flower.
Forcing is a simple process that starts with planting the bulbs in indoor containers so that the pointy ends are facing up. Next, fill the container with soil so that just the tops of the bulbs show through the soil. Water thoroughly and place the pots in a cool dark place such as a cellar or refrigerator. This cold storage step is very important in mimicking the natural process occurring outdoors. Ideally the temperature should be between 35 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit and it is important to keep the bulbs moist during this period.
Total forcing time can vary, but a good rule of thumb is to note when the shoots are 2 to 3 inches above the soil and roots begin to emerge out the bottom of the container. When this occurs, move the pots to a slightly warmer place (50 degrees) with indirect light. At this stage the buds will become developed and plump. When buds are fully developed move them into bright light at about 65 degrees. Finally, when the flowers begin to open, take them out of the direct light to prolong their blooms.
After flowering, store the bulbs in a cool dry place until the following fall, at which time, they can be re-planted in the garden outside. Unfortunately, bulbs that have already been forced once, will not be very successful. Once they are in the ground and back to a natural cycle however, they will once again produce flowers.
Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Muscari, and Daffodils work really well with this technique. Other bulbs include Snowdrops, Dutch Irises, Blue Squill, and Glory-of-the-snow.