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Growing Concerns: Here’s a bright idea: Get tulip bulbs started now

November 10, 2018

Believe it or not, there is still time to plant spring flowering bulbs in the garden. Tulips can be planted as long as the ground is not frozen. November is also a good time to start forcing bulbs indoors for a touch of spring during the winter.

Tulips can be planted for forcing indoors. Choose a shallow container and barely cover the bulbs, the “noses” should be sticking out of the growing media. Water well and move to the refrigerator or an unheated porch that stays cool but does not drop below 35 degrees.

After 15 weeks of chilling, move the containers to a location with a temperature of 55 degrees. Flowers will appear in two to three weeks. For continuous color throughout the winter, plant bulbs at two-week intervals.

Crocus, daffodil, hyacinth and other hardy spring bloomers can also be forced to bloom indoors with the correct amount of chilling.

Paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis bulbs are tender bulbs and do not require chilling to induce flowering.

Paperwhite narcissus is the easiest bulb to force. Bulbs can be forced in potting soil, sand or gravel. I like to use gravel or glass beads.

Choose a decorative container for forcing. Place one to 2 inches of washed gravel or glass beads in the bottom of the container. Add water to within 1/4 inch of the top of the gravel. Place the bulb tip-end up on top of the gravel or stones. Do not place the bulbs in the water. The roots will grow into the water.

For the best display, place the bulbs shoulder-to-shoulder in the container. Place the container in a bright cool, 50- to 60-degree room until shoots are one to two inches tall. Paperwhites will bloom in four to six weeks.

Paperwhites bloom only once, so discard the bulbs after blooming. Stagger plantings from October through January for continuous bloom.

Amaryllis is a large bulb that produces a showy, trumpet flower. Larger bulbs produce larger and more flowers. Select a container deep enough to allow adequate root development and drainage. The bulb should be positioned so that one-half of the bulb is above the surface of the potting medium. Water thoroughly and move to a warm, sunny spot. Flowers will develop in seven to 10 weeks from a dormant bulb.

Remove faded flowers to prevent seed formation, but do not remove the flower stalk until it has turned yellow. It is important that amaryllis receive plenty of bright sunlight after blooming to store energy for next season’s bloom. Water the plant thoroughly as needed. Continue to fertilize monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer to build up nutrients for future flower production. Start the forcing period again in the fall.

Amaryllis does require care and attention throughout the year, but the beautiful trumpet flowers are a great reward.

Flowering bulbs make great holiday and hostess gifts. Start forcing bulbs today for enjoyment during the long, dark days of winter.

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