Force bulbs indoors this winter for color

What a spectacular fall we had this year. During these difficult and uncertain times, we were blessed with warm, sunny days and the trees showed us a magnificent display of color this year.

But as always, winter is coming.

As gardeners, we are lovers of nature, blooms and color. We all are quite aware that winter is a time of drab, dull and wait.

I spend the winter months planning for the next growing season. I think I need more indoor projects this year. I thrive on anything green and color. I do not have enough indoor light to be successful with house plants.

I mean to beat winter doldrums. Forcing bulbs may be the answer.

Many bulbs require a chill time. Chill times range from 10 to 16 weeks — a bit late for that. If you search for them, you can purchase pre-chilled bulbs.

However, there are some favorites that do not require pre-chilling. Amaryllis, paperwhites, are seasonal favorites. I was surprised to learn that freesia, caladium, allium, Peruvian daffodil and gladiolus can be forced without pre-chilling. I have to try some of those this year.

Plan bloom times so that you have several weeks of indoor blooms. Here are some dos, don’ts and how tos regarding forcing bulbs.

Bulb selection is key. Bigger bulbs produce bigger flowers. Be sure the bulbs you select have no soft spots or mold.

Choose the right container. I like one at least 6 inches deep with drainage holes. Wash the container, fill about one third with medium. The enemy of bulbs is wet feet. Small stones at the bottom help prevent the roots from coming out of the hole while letting the water flow.

Next, consider the potting medium. Kits with bulbs ready for planting need no added nutrients. If not, using a kit a mix of 60 percent peat, 20 percent vermiculite and 20 percent perlite works well.

Dampen the medium as you begin potting. Stand bulbs in the soil, hairy root end down, pointy side up. Do not press the bulbs into the soil.

Add soil, leave at least a half inch space at top. Tap pot gently to settle soil. Water upon planting, water when the surface feel dry.

More tips: Forced bulbs can get leggy, floppy or stretching to reach light. Some type of support is usually necessary. Sticks or hoops work well. Place them when potting.

Paperwhites are particularly prone to being leggy. Add a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol per gallon of water. According to Cornell University, using this solution for watering resulted in paperwhites that were one-half to one-third shorter than those grown using plain water. FYI, most paperwhites do not have a pleasant fragrance.

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

McKinley is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.


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