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Get early spring blooms by forcing flowers

Published: Thu, November 15, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Barb Delisio

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

If you want the beautiful spring bulbs to bloom in February and March, you have to begin now when the bulbs are fresh in the stores. You can’t start out with dried out, brownish bulbs. So shop the sales and get something to color the winter blahs.

Forcing is a way to have blooming bulbs in your house long before they even poke their heads through the soil outside.

All bulbs to be forced need a chilling time at 35-45 degrees for a number of weeks. A refrigerator works well for this.

Smaller bulbs such as crocus or grape hyacinth need 8-10 weeks of the chilling temperature. Larger bulbs such as daffodils and tulips need 14-16 weeks.

All you need to get started is a container with a drainage hole in the bottom, a saucer, the bulbs and potting mix.

Bulbs can be planted singly in a container or you can plant three or four bulbs in the same container.

If you want continuous bloom for a month or so you can plant a mixture of different kinds of bulbs in a larger container.

After you purchase new bulbs, decide if you’re going to plant them all together or singularly. The pot should be just a little larger than the bulbs to allow for strong root growth in the chilling period.

Small bulbs such as the crocus or grape hyacinth are usually planted in a group, four to five in a 3- to 4-inch container. One single daffodil would fit in a 4-inch container.

I usually like a mixture blooming together in a larger pot. If I’m planting a group of bulbs, I usually use a bowl type pot; just make sure it has a hole for drainage. Bulbs in wet soil will simply rot.

Add lightweight potting mix to hold the bulbs and make it deep enough to allow good root growth. Plant the bulbs, pushing them into the potting mix.

Bulbs should be touching each other to get as many blooms as possible.

The points of the bulbs should be poking through the soil for larger bulbs. Small bulbs should be about an inch below the soil mix.

Place the container on the saucer. Water the potting mix around the bulb tips, taking care not to water the tips of the bulbs. Add enough water to wet all the potting mix.

Place the saucer and the pot on a shelf in the refrigerator away from fresh fruit. The gasses from the ripening fruit will affect the blooming of the bulbs.

Water the pot only when the soil is dry.

After the chilling time is over, move the potted bulbs to a cool room, not in direct sunlight for a few weeks.

When the green tips sprout to 1-2 inches, move the containers to a warmer room with more sunlight.

Don’t fertilize the bulbs. Everything they need to bloom is already in the bulb.

Do not put the blooming bulbs in direct sunlight or in front of a heater vent for they will dry out and shorten the bloom period.

If you want an easier method to get early spring bulbs blooming, you can buy Paperwhite narcissus, which are ready for planting. Follow the directions on the box.

You would not need to buy these bulbs now but wait until January or February because they don’t need a chilling period.

Forcing bulbs takes time, but it is it worth it when you have pots of beautiful spring bulbs blooming in February, March and early April inside the house.

For more details and details on forcing, go to http://go.osu.edu/forcing.

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