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Newsletter Posts

Forcing Bulbs into Early Bloom

Amy Miller

A small but mighty group of SLGC members met at the CBG in November to prepare pots of bulbs to enjoy in the spring. The workshop was ably led by Amy Miller, who gave us the following directions:

A lot of us thought the bulb workshop would be a breeze until we found out we had to keep them in a constant 40-50 temp and that four legged intruders might regard them as dinner!

A lot of us thought the bulb workshop would be a breeze until we found out we had to keep them in a constant 40-50 temp and that four legged intruders might regard them as dinner!

 Forcing bulbs is simply the act of compressing nature’s cycle into a shorter period of time, thereby giving us spring blooms in the doldrums of mid to late winter.  You can force small bulbs like snowdrops and crocus, or larger bulbs like tulip, hyacinth and daffodil.  Make sure not to confuse forcing bulbs with potting amaryllis and paperwhites which arrive to you ready to plant and enjoy immediately. 

First, select your pot.  It needs a drainage hole, but other than that important requirement, the container can be made out of any material.

Second, you want to fill your pot with a light potting mix amended with vermiculite to keep it fluffy.  You don’t want your bulb sitting in a water sodden soil mix – sharp drainage is key to healthy bulbs.

Third, after you have planted your bulbs in your pot and covered them with the potting mix, you need to trick them into thinking they have endured winter.  So, into a cold spot they go for 8-12 weeks.  An unheated garage or utility shed that stays below 50 degrees works fine.  Just cover the pots with metal hardware cloth (available at the hardware store next to the chicken wire) and a brick to discourage any mice or other critters from munching on your bulbs during the cold storage period.

I insert a popsicle stick with the date that I planted the bulbs and add a reminder in my phone’s calendar of when to start pulling the containers from cold storage.   If you plant two weeks apart, you can pull the pots two weeks apart and have a succession of beautiful blooms to tide you over until spring.

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