Shakespeare may have best described the feelings of gardeners in areas where winter means cold, snow and dormant plants, but that “discontent” you feel can be remedied with brightly colored flowers. Forced spring bulbs are a great way to bring a little bit of the garden indoors with very little effort – by the time these long-lasting bloomers are spent, you’ll already be working on raising seedlings for the spring. Your winter problems have been solved!
Before you rush out to buy some spring bulbs, read this handy guide to forcing them to bloom before their outdoor counterparts. It’s a simple DIY project, but requires some preparation and planning.
Winter and fall indoor gardening tips are usually centered around getting your plants ready to rest for the winter – forcing bulbs is a completely different situation. Although you must induce a short dormancy to make it happen, what you’re really doing is getting your plants ready for their grand appearance. Several different species of plants are suitable for forcing, but the easiest for beginners are tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinth.
You’ll need to prepare a well-draining pot full of sterile potting soil that will fit inside your refrigerator or other cool space. Fill it about 2/3 of the way full before placing your bulbs inside, leaving a gap between each bulb. Container gardening can be messy, so when you cover your bulbs, leave an inch or two of space between the rim of the pot and the top of the soil to help keep your fridge clean.
When you pot your bulbs is as important as how you do it – the timing will affect when blooms appear. It takes 10 to 12 weeks of constant temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate flower production. Refrigerators are ideal, but if your garage or basement remains in this temperature range all winter these locations are great alternatives, especially if you’re using a larger container.
Getting Creative with Out of Season Color
Although you can certainly put your bulbs in a bland plastic or terra cotta pot, placing them in a designer container will add another dimension of color and texture to your arrangement. Planters made with natural materials might be more appropriate for cabins and rustic-style homes, or you might choose a window box for bulbs you’d prefer to show off on the outside of your cottage.
No matter what style of container best fits your home, you’ll need to plant your bulbs in it before chilling them to give the plants plenty of time to develop a healthy root system. If you’re planning on moving your blooming plants outdoors, wait until all risk of frost has passed or bring them inside at night.