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bulb forcing basics

by dig the dirt editor

Why wait for spring to enjoy sweet-scented hyacinths? With a little planning, you can bring their beautiful touch of cheer indoors this winter and brighten the dreariest of days.

 

 

BULB FORCING BASICS

 

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Forcing hyacinths and other spring flowering bulbs is easy. It's a matter of mimicking nature and fooling the bulbs into behaving as if they've survived their usual (necessary) winter chill and are ready to spring forth into bloom.

Time frame

  • 30 minutes for planting
  • 12 weeks for chilling
  • 4 to 5 weeks for growing and blooming

Materials:

  • terra cotta oval pot (16x5x8)
  • 6 hyacinth bulbs
  • potting soil
  • green moss (1 package)

Kid-friendly project: Yes! This makes an excellent classroom project. Just have each child plant one bulb in a 4-inch pot.

STEP 1:  Plan ahead.

  • Start the project in autumn, about 16 weeks before anticipated bloom time.
  • Plant bulbs in containers at least 4 inches deep. Fill pot half-full of potting mix. Place bulbs on soil with their pointy side up and spaced at least ½ inch apart. Cover bulbs with soil, leaving ¾-inch of their points above soil.
  • Water soil thoroughly. Cover pot loosely with a plastic bag to help preserve soil moisture.

STEP 2: Do the big chill.

  • Set potted bulbs in a dark, cool place -- 35 to 50 degrees F. is ideal - do not allow bulbs to freeze.
  • Depending on where you live, store pots in an unheated garage, cold frame, root cellar, or refrigerator.
  • Check bulbs every few weeks; keep soil moist but not wet. If mold develops, remove plastic bag. Bulbs will develop roots and begin to sprout.

STEP 3: Imitate spring.

  • Bring your potted bulbs out of cold storage and into a warm room (60 to 65 degrees F.).
  • Tuck a layer of green moss around the bulbs, covering the soil, to make a more decorative display and help preserve soil moisture.
  • Set bulbs out of sunlight for several weeks, allowing sprouts to develop into leaves. Water lightly.
  • When flower buds form, move the pot into a sunny spot and enjoy the beauty and fragrance that unfolds over the next couple of weeks.

STEP 4: Recycle.

  • You cannot force the same bulbs twice, but you can transplant forced hyacinth bulbs to the garden and enjoy them again next year.
  • After the forced bulbs finish blooming, cut spent flowers and allow foliage to wither naturally.
  • When spring arrives, gently uproot the bulbs, and replant them 6 to 7 inches deep in the garden. Sprinkle with fertilizer and water.

 

This method of forcing bulbs entails tucking them into a pot of soil, chilling it for several months, then bringing the pot into a warm room and watching the bulbs slowly develop tender sprouts. Within a few weeks, green leaves emerge; blooms arise and open slowly. A pot of forced bulbs makes an ideal gift for a bedridden or housebound friend who will witness the bulbs' daily progress.

If you chill several pots of bulbs and bring them into a warm room one week at a time, you can stretch their flowering season through the winter. Try planting different colors of hyacinths in each pot, from white and pink to lavender, purple, and blue.

Tags

forcing bulbs, hyacinth

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