Chicago gardeners, tired of waiting for the growing season to begin? If you are, why not try to force bulbs to grow indoors. Forcing bulbs is a “process of bringing a plant to flower out of season,” according to The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.
Choose a bulbous plant from this list: Amaryllis, Chionodoxa, Crocus, Eranthis, Fritillaria, Galanthus, Hyacinthus, Iris, Leucojum, Lilium, Muscari, Narcissus, Scilla or Tulipa. These bulbs have been successfully forced by indoor gardeners.
Use either a clay or plastic pot, and remember plants in clay pots need to be watered more frequently. A stone or a piece of screen keeps the soil in the pot. If possible, plant the bulbs at the same depth as you would outdoors. Fill the pot to a depth of one inch with a bulb soil mix, gently add the bulb and fill in the soil around the bulb gently. Cover small bulbs completely. Tulips and daffodils and other large bulbs don’t have to be covered completely. Leave a ½ inch of space from the rim. Water the bulb and keep in a cold place (35-40°F., 2-4°C.) for about 10 weeks. Early flowering bulbs need less cold treatment, but late flowering bulbs need up to 16 weeks.
Check regularly for shoots and roots. When they appear, move the plants to a warmer place (50-55°F., 10-12°C.) out of direct sunlight. When the shoots turn green, move the plants to a warmer place with more light. The flowers will last longer if you put your plants in a cool place at night.
Plant your forced bulbs in the garden in spring or allow to become dormant. Also, forced bulbs do not force well a second time.
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