Give spring this winter to gardeners and non-gardeners. A pot of spring-flowering tulips, daffodils, or other bulbs is sure to brighten up a dreary winter day and uplift the recipient’s mood.
Spring flowering bulbs need 12 to 15 weeks of temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees to initiate flowering. This happens naturally in areas with cold winters. The bulbs are planted in the fall, get the cold they need, and add welcome color to the spring garden.
Those who live in warmer climates, typically zones 8, 9, and 10, need a different approach. In these regions, low-cooling bulbs that do not need such a long cold period or pre-cooled bulbs are grown. The pre-chilled bulbs also sold as pre-chilled, have been given the necessary cold period and can be grown as annuals.
No matter where you garden, spring flowering bulbs can be refrigerated in a spare refrigerator. Keep bulbs away from apples and pears. These fruits give off ethylene gas, a natural hormone that is not harmful to humans, but can speed up ripening and interfere with flowering when the bulbs are kept in the same refrigerator compartment. Check the pots every now and then and water as needed to keep the soil slightly moist, but not soggy.
Some friends and family may appreciate a DIY Bulb Forcing Kit as a gift. Spring flowering bulbs, potting soil, and a container with drainage holes are all you need. Provide instructions for assembly, suggestions for providing cold treatment if necessary, and proper care.
Others may prefer a gift that requires minimal care, like Months of Bloom from Gardener’s Supply Company. Order just once and these pre-planted bulb gardens are delivered to the recipient every month for 3, 6, or 12 months. Simply water when the potting mix begins to dry out and watch the spring flowering bulbs sprout, grow and flower.
Keep spring flowering bulb gardens in a cool, bright place to extend their flowering time. Once the plants have finished flowering, you can add them to the compost pile.
For those who prefer to enjoy it a second season and beyond, provide some post-flowering care. Remove the withered flowers and move the container to a sunny window. Continue to water abundantly whenever the first few inches of the soil start to dry out. Drain off any excess water that collects in the saucer to prevent root rot and apply a dilute solution of any flowering houseplant fertilizer.
Once the leaves turn yellow and die or the soil in the garden warms up and the danger of frost has passed, you can move them around the garden. Tulips and hyacinths work best in sunny areas with well-drained soils. Both of these bulbs tend to flower for a year or two and then produce little to no bloom. Keep this in mind when planning for the future.
Daffodils and grape hyacinths will grow in sun or shade and in a variety of soil types. These tend to have a long lifespan as they grow and spread out over time.
It may take two years before you have flowers, but it’s a great way to extend the fun of a Christmas present.
Melinda Myers is the author of over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts Les Grands Cours “How to grow anything” Melinda’s Garden Moment DVD and TV and Radio Series. Myers is a columnist and editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.