So what can you do with bulbs you didn’t get around to planting before the ground froze this winter? This isn’t all that uncommon with the hustle and bustle of a busy life. The good news is, you don’t have to just throw them out. The bad news… you can’t just wait until next spring to plant them!
Fall bulbs such as crocus, daffodils, tulips, alliums, etc. (even iris, peonies, hostas, etc. that aren’t true bulbs) need time to establish roots before they flower in the spring, that is why it is common practice to plant them in fall, a few weeks before the first hard freeze. That gives them time to get a few roots pushed down before winter dormancy. And, in reality, they continue to grow very slowly while the winter is blustering above ground. Even garlic and onion sets grow bigger bulbs if given some time in fall to grow roots. So how do you accomplish that if the ground is frozen solid? The secret is pots!
That’s right, plant the bulbs in pots and mimic fall weather by stashing them in the bottom of your refrigerator for a few weeks. Fill a six inch or larger pot with soil up to ¾ its height. If you have any garden soil to blend with your potting soil, that’s great, but if not, it’s okay to use straight potting soil. Carefully place the bulbs with the root disk downward and the pointed end up. Press the bulbs firmly into the soil and cover them with additional soil until the pot is full. Thoroughly water them and put them in a cool, dark location.
If you have an unheated garage, that’s a good place to put them, especially if you have your 7-9 servings of leafy, green vegetables in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator! Otherwise, skimp and move things around to put the pots in your fridge. It actually does work in the fridge!
Keep an eye on the bulbs for growth poking through the soil. Once it’s about an inch or two tall, you can put the pots outside and mulch them heavily with snow, leaves, or pine needles if they are available. Once Spring arrives, the ground will thaw and you can plant the bulbs as usual… except of course now you need to take care not to disturb the roots too much. They should bloom normally and establish as if you’d planted them on time last fall!
It's even better news that the refrigerator also works for forcing bulb varieties that do well indoors. After a few weeks in the fridge, tulips, daffodils, crocus, dutch iris, "paper whites," or other bulbs that are listed as "indoor-friendly" can be taken out, placed on a window ledge or counter top and enjoyed through their bloom-cycle. It's a great way to bring the outdoors indoors and to speed up Spring just a bit.