In my “perfect world,” I have a house full of have fresh flowers–all year round! In reality, lack of time or money often gets in the way. But if you’d like an idea for winter flowers that is time-management friendly and easy on the wallet, now is the time to get started!
Last year, I potted up a bunch of flower bulbs, chilled them (did you know that most bulbs like tulips and daffodils need to experience weeks of cold in order to bloom?), then set them out to bloom–in the middle of winter. It was a great success and I can’t wait to do it again.
Have you seen the packages of flower bulbs–grape hyacinths, tulips, etc–that grace the aisles and endcaps or hardware stores, garden centers and home improvement centers every fall? As winter closes in, the prices drop dramatically and at some point in November, they become a screaming deal.
Here’s how to turn bargain bulbs into a winter bonanza!
Winter Bulb Forcing
1. Select an appropriate planting container. A clay pot is ideal, but if you’d like something more decorative, just pick something with drainage holes. A shallow pot is fine if you are planting a single type of bulb, but if you want to layer 2-3 varieties, be sure to pick something deeper.
2. Put a layer of potting mix (I use homemade compost, mixed with a little sand and peat, which helps keep the cost low) on the bottom of the pot, then layer in the largest bulbs. Set them in pointed side up and close together but not touching.
3. Layer in some additional potting soil, then add a second layer of bulbs and cover these with soil. Repeat this if you have three types of bulbs (I originally intended to do daffodils on the bottom, then tulips, then grape hyacinths, but the daffodils were sold out).
4. Top off with soil mix, water the bulbs, then loosely cover the pot. Your goal is to retard evaporation, but not create an environment that is so tight you grow moss or mold.
5. Place in a cold environment to rest. A spare refrigerator (without fruit–fruit gives off a gas that hurts bulbs and even vegetables that are stored long term) or an unheated garage that stays consistently between 33 and 45 degrees is a good choice. Avoid areas that will experience a series of freeze and thaw cycles over the winter such as a detached garage. Check the pots every few weeks for moisture levels and water or loosen covering as needed.
6. After 12 or more weeks, remove the pots to a room temperature environment a (ideal temperatures are about 65-68 during the day and 60 at night). Water as needed, then watch the show arrive in about three weeks! Chilling time is critical. I used a chilling time of eight weeks in one pot, and just the grape hyacinths bloomed. In the pot I took out at twelve weeks , both the tulips and hyacinths bloomed.
In the spirit of full disclosure, last year I got distracted and finally planted my bulbs in a desperate flurry of activity on Christmas day. This year, I plan to start them in November so that I can have my flowers even earlier!
Who needs April showers!