Plants - Flower Bulbs

Chill bulbs now to force in late winter

By
Tovah Martin
Photography by
Kindra Clineff

Keep a few fall bulbs out of the garden so that you can enjoy early spring blooms indoors


It’s been a long time since I tried to survive winter without bulbs. Many years ago, I learned it was possible to coax spring bulbs to perform prematurely indoors. Ever since, I’ve enjoyed orchestrating that sneak peek at the growing season on my windowsill. Did I say enjoyed? What I really mean is that bulbs serve up salvation. I would not miss this opportunity for the world.

Pre-chilling your bulbs
The prep work you’ll need to do is the pre-chilling sequence. You can cheat nature only to a certain degree; you have to play her game. Every year, right after American Thanksgiving, you can find me at my potting bench. I tuck as many bulbs of the same type as possible cheek by jowl in each container, placing them an inch or two below soil level using an organic potting mix with compost included. When the bulbs first arrive, I stash them, unplanted, in the salad-crisper drawers of the refrigerator. After they are potted into containers, they pretty much monopolize the refrigerator for the duration of the chilling period, until signs of growth begin to sprout (when in doubt, leave them in the refrigerator—removing too early will result in foliage, but no flowers). And if you prefer to reserve your fridge for food, other options are the cellar, garage, barn, a barely heated mud room, or any place that remains around 4°C to 7°C and doesn’t freeze.

In the fridge, the planted bulbs are monitored to ensure the soil hasn’t dried out during the eight- to 12-week cold treatment. After chilling, they’re pulled out, as needed, to brighten what could be a dangerously boring blip in time.

And there you have it. A few simple steps that mark the difference between abject, unmitigated ennui and a long stint of anticipation and enthralling
performance.


the-unexpected-houseplant.jpg
Excerpted with permission from The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home by Tovah Martin (Timberland Press).

Read more in Plants and Flower Bulbs

  • Page 1: Forcing spring bulbs

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