As many of you know, Groundhog Day was yesterday and good old Punxsutawney Phil saw his stupid shadow. So with spring a six more weeks away and snow falling from cloudy skies here in the Midwest, the winter blues have hit some of us pretty hard. In Minnesota we have had a fairly mild winter thus far but there is still a long way to go before we can bask in 60 degree sunshine surrounded by the delicate fragrance of blooming flowers. However, I am here to offer you hope! I have a trick I use each winter to give myself a much needed boost of patience so that I may make it to spring: forcing spring bulbs!
Spring flowers are some of my favorite of the entire growing season. They are a sure sign of warm days ahead, their colors are bright and they are amazingly fragrant! The Hyacinth flower is my absolute favorite, their fragrance is very powerful and I would describe it as a mix between antique rose and lilac. Hyacinth is a mid to late spring bloom but as it turns out, if you mimic winter the bulbs will bloom indoors! Here’s how to do it:
- Flower bulbs: Hyacinth, Tulip and Daffodil work best
- A pot or container that is at least six inches tall
- Potting soil
- Bulb fertilizer (optional)
- A cool, dark place
Start by filling the pot ¾ of the way full with potting soil. Press your chosen bulbs into the soil as close to one another as you can get without allowing them to touch (make sure they are right-side-up!) then lightly cover with another layer of soil. Water thoroughly. If watering causes the soil to settle and expose the bulbs just add more soil. Find a cool dark place. The best spots would be in a crawl space, a cool basement or your refrigerator. Wherever you choose to put them just make sure the temperature stays between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit and the bulbs remain in the dark. If you need to, place a paper bag over the pots.
Once you have found the perfect spot leave them undisturbed for a couple of weeks. For timing purposes, it is best to “plant” your bulbs in winter for spring enjoyment but you can force bulbs anytime of the year. If you want to transplant your bulbs into the garden, you must wait until the fall. Once a few weeks have passed you can begin acclimatizing the bulbs to warmer temperatures, but do so slowly otherwise they will burst into blooms but die off before they have a chance to open.
The best way to acclimate them, for example, is if you have them in the basement move them to the base of the stairs for a day, then to the top of the stairs for a day, etc. Move them one day at a time until you get them to the desired spot. As a note, however, do not expose your plant to full sun until the foliage has turned green. Once you have acclimated your bulbs to a sunny spot continue to lightly water and give your pot a quarter turn every other day or so otherwise your bulbs will flop over – plants naturally reach for the sun. Once the bulbs bloom you will be able to enjoy them for several weeks.
Just beginning to bloom!!
If you plan to transplant your bulbs into the garden simply trim off spent blooms but be sure to leave the foliage! This is important because the leaves are where the bulb gets its energy to bloom. Keep your trimmed bulbs indoors and continue watering until you can transplant them outside in the fall. I hope you give it a try; beautiful flowers can help those “teaser” weeks between when the snow melts and the flowers bloom a little more tolerable!