Sometimes winter arrives earlier than we'd planned which can be inconvenient if you still have bulbs you haven't planted. Well, don't dispair, this is an opportunity to try flowering them indoors. The procedure is known as 'forcing', a rather unfortunate term in that it leaves the impression that it’s hard to do. But take courage, there really isn’t much of a trick to it. All it takes is
1. a touch of foresight and
2. a little patience.
You can have a head start on spring , right in your living room. Better still, these bulbs are ON SALE.
Although you can 'force' just about anything, some bulbs are easier than others. Crocus, Hyacinths, Narcissus and Tulips (not species Tulips) are excellent candidates.
A touch of foresight
If you want an early display, start early. You can actually have bulbs in bloom around Christmas if you pot some up in early September. It’s a good idea to pot a few up at a time over a few weeks. Then you’ll have a steady supply of bloom through the worst part of the winter. Just keep the bulbs in the refrigerator until you need them.
The pot and soil
Almost any pot with a drainage hole will do, clay or plastic, but shallow pots look better. Any loose light general garden soil is OK or you can make your own from an equal parts mix of soil (or compost), peat moss, and coarse sand. You won’t need fertilizer. Some Daffodils are easier than others. We've found that the following varieties work wonderfully.
BEAUTIFUL EYES - fragrant
CHROMACOLOUR . .
FRAGRANT ROSE - fragrant
GOLDEN DAWN - fragrant
PIPIT - fragrant
ROYAL PRINCESS . .
YELLOW CHEERFULNESS - fragrant
Plant as many bulbs as the pot will hold but they shouldn’t touch each other or the sides of the pot. The tip of the bulb should be just clear of the soil. Water thoroughly.
Tulip bulbs have a flat side that produces an straight, upright leaf. Orient the bulbs on the outside of your pots with their flat sides facing outwards. Your pots will look better if you do.
As a rule, early flowering Tulips are easier to force but we've found the following to be good varieties for forcing:
CANDY APPLE DELIGHT ..
CANDY KISSES ..
CANDY CORN ..
HOLLAND QUEEN ..
MATCH POINT ..
PEACH MELBA ..
Now a little patience
(6 - 8 WEEKS OF COLD STORAGE) - After potting up, the bulbs need cold, dark storage for 6 - 8 weeks to allow the bulbs to grow strong roots. There are several ways to do this. If you have an extra refrigerator, that’s fine. A cool dark cellar, or a dark corner of an unheated garage will do nicely.
Some people place the pots in a pit in the garden filled with straw or leaves and a board on top. The best temperature is 5oC to 10oC. but don’t let it get below 0oC before they've had time to root (it’s OK if the pots eventually freeze provided they've had enough time to grow roots). Mark the date on the calendar and check your pots occasionally to make sure they don’t dry out
Here's the reward
Take a peek at the pots after about 8 weeks. You’ll find the sprouts on the bulbs are now about 5 cm. high. Now’s the time to move the pots indoors into a semi dark area for a week. After this move them into full light (they’ll last longer in a cool spot) then sit back and enjoy watching the flowers grow.
Tulips work best if you can grow them on in a bright but COOL (10 - 15 degrees Celcius) location. This can take many weeks, but we always have pots of Tulips in bloom from the middle of March onwards.
Dead-head the spent blossoms and keep the pots watered. These bulbs can be planted outdoors in your garden where they will bloom again the following spring.