Beat the Winter Blues with Bulbs: A Fun, Festive Winter Project

By forcing bulbs to grow indoors, it is possible to welcome spring ahead of schedule by growing bulbs like daffodils, grape hyacinths, crocus and tulips throughout the frigid months that are typically devoid of greenery.

All it takes is a little planning and patience.

You may choose to infuse your home with bright colors, intoxicatingly fresh scents or buds that are complementary to your home décor. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to grow your bulbs in soil, over water, or in a bed of rocks. Some bulbs are amenable to any of these growing conditions, so experiment!

Some bulbs require a chilling period prior to planting to mimic the rest period they would experience in the ground during the winter (see chart). You can place the bulbs in a mesh or paper bag in an out-of-the-way space in your refrigerator or out in the garage or cold basement if outdoor temps hover between 30 and 50 degrees.

Two additional rules of thumb apply no matter which type of bulb or growing medium you choose: (1) select a waterproof container that is two inches larger than the bulb (or cluster of bulbs), all the way around. And, (2) don’t mix bulb varieties within the same container. Usually 6 tulip bulbs, 3 hyacinths, 6 daffodils or 15 crocuses will nestle nicely into a 6-inch pot together.

Place the flat side of the bulbs next to the rim of the pot since the largest leaf will always emerge from that spot.

It’s hard to say when exactly you can expect your bulbs to flower, but anticipate they will take a few weeks after the first signs of growth. We can fool Mother Nature, but we can’t make her follow a strict schedule! Below is a general idea.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planting Bulbs in Soil
If you are going for the “wow factor,” the amaryllis is a brilliant flower that exists as a stand-alone statement ornament. Fairly low maintenance when first nurtured; this bulb is a perfect choice for beginners. But truly, any type of bulb will thrive in soil, so if not the amaryllis, choose your favorite variety and plant a cluster of them in the same container.

Materials:
– 1 large amaryllis bulb (or a group of some other variety bulb)
– Flowerpot or other waterproof container
– Rich potting soil, enough to cover most of the bulb
– Water

Instructions:
1. Condition the bulbs by storing them in a cool, dark place like a refrigerator, garage or cold basement, if needed (see chart).
2. Select an appropriate container and plant the bulb, pointy side up, in potting soil, covering most of the bulb. Make sure the top of the bulb peeks out of the soil. If you are planting a cluster of bulbs together within the same container, nestle them about an inch apart.
3. Find a warm, sunny spot in your home for your bulb.
4. Water well. Then, over the next few days, allow the soil to dry out.
5. Once the flower stalk presents itself, water your bulb more often, but only when necessary and never when the soil is still moist.
6. Rotate your plant every day to encourage even growth and a straighter stem.

Planting Bulbs Over Water
Hyacinths, crocuses and narcissus can be forced to grow over water. Special vases are made for this task. The bulb is placed in the upper portion of the vase and water goes in the lower portion. You can admire the root system of these flowering bulbs as they grow, which is quite a show in itself.

Materials:
– Hyacinth, crocus or narcissus bulb (one bulb per vase)
– Rooting forcing jar or vase
– Water

Instructions:
1. Condition the bulbs by storing them in a cool, dark place like a refrigerator, garage or cold basement, if needed (see chart).
2. Set the bulbs securely atop the forcing jar, pointy side up.
3. Add water to the bowl of the vase to a level that is just underneath the bulbs, but not touching them.
4. Find a spot for the forcing jar that receives indirect sunlight and warmth.
5. Water it frequently enough so that the roots are wet, but the bulb is not.
6. In three to four weeks, your bulbs should bloom.

Planting Bulbs in Rocks
If you’re yearning for a spring color, your eyes may be drawn to tulips. Tulips are a little bit trickier to grow indoors and will require some advance planning and a bit more personal attention. Daffodils and paperwhite narcissus also like growing in groups set into shallow containers filled with pebbles

Materials:
– Tulip, daffodil or paperwhite bulbs, enough to fit in your container with an inch of space between them
– Bowl or other waterproof container that is wider than it is deep
– Pebbles or small stones, enough to fill your container two-thirds full
– Water

Instructions:
1. Condition the bulbs by storing them in a cool, dark place like a refrigerator, garage or cold basement, if needed (see chart).
2. Arrange pebbles in the bottom of a waterproof bowl. The bowl should be about two-thirds full. Try using a transparent container so you can easily monitor water levels and root development.
3. Set the bulbs securely atop the stones, pointy side up.
4. You’ll be placing several bulbs within the same bowl, so nestle them together, about an inch apart.
5. Add water to the bowl to a level that is just underneath the bulbs, but not touching them. The pebbles will do the rest of the work.
6. The bowl may remain in a cool location for another four to six weeks.
7. Once roots have developed, it is finally time to set the bowl in a sunny spot to grow.
8. Water it frequently enough so that the roots are wet, but the bulbs are not.
9. After the first signs of growth, your tulips should be blooming in about a month.

Why not surround yourself and your loved ones with fragrant beauty even in the winter? Once you immerse yourself in this hobby, you may even opt to offer floral favors to guests at your next party. Delicately delightful, these winter beauties make for thoughtful gifts—or possibly a pleasant surprise for your Valentine! Let them be a happy reminder that vibrant life flourishes all year round.

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