Vibrant autumn leaves have fallen and blown away. Winter and its cold temperatures are around the corner. A scarcity of color will soon descend on our landscapes, leaving us longing for the magnificent hues of spring and summer gardens and fall leaves.
But, there is a way to experience the long-gone colors and scents of the growing season in winter. While the weather may be too cold or too temperamental for annuals, bulbs, perennials and shrubs to bloom outdoors, we can grow color indoors. Now is a great time to force bulbs to bloom in the home.
Bulbs are everywhere. In grocery store aisles or at your favorite local nursery, they can be found in neat little boxes, in bags and in open crates. Their displays feature beautiful pictures of flowers in full-bloom arranged on kitchen tables during winter.
You don’t need to be a florist or a gardener to achieve that look. There are a few basic steps for forcing bulbs to bloom indoors. Know the bulb that you plan to force, and select the most suitable bulb for your environment. When choosing bulbs, look for quality and health.
Many spring-blooming bulbs can be forced to flower out of their normal season. Tulips, narcissus (daffodils), hyacinths, grape hyacinths and crocus are the most common choices. Hyacinths and daffodils are generally known as the easiest.
The top favorite is paperwhite narcissus. This flower features a lovely, sweet fragrance and dainty trumpet-like flowers. You will know as soon as you walk in the front door if someone has these bulbs blooming. Their fragrance fills the air. They make great holiday party centerpieces or host gifts.
The second all-time favorite is amaryllis. While they lack a sweet scent, they well make up for it with show-stopping, long-lasting flowers.
Bulbs should be large, firm and blemish-free. Depending on the bulb you will be using, if planting in soil, chose a well-draining potting medium. If working with water, you will need either special hyacinth-forcing vases or shallow pots with water and decorative stones or pebbles. Containers should be clean and sterile and made of clay, glass, ceramic or plastic.
Some bulbs come pre-chilled and can be planted right away. If the bulbs have not been pre-chilled, you may need to provide three weeks to three months of darkness with temperatures between 35 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit to force blooms.
If you need blooms in time for a holiday get-together, ask your nursery professional about your bulb’s chilling requirements before purchasing.
Bloom timing varies on the bulb selection. Most forced bulbs will flower from 4 to 16 weeks after being planted. Paperwhites can bloom in just 4 to 6 weeks. Hyacinth can bloom in 1 to 16 weeks. Amaryllis blooms in 8 to 12 weeks. Crocus blooms in 6 to 12 weeks.
No matter if you purchase bulbs that are already blooming or force your own, they will bring a sense of spring to your home and a much-needed splash of color this winter.
Wendy Hanson Mazet is a horticulturist and certified arborist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have questions about your plants? Contact a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.