Give the gift of spring this winter to gardeners and non-gardeners alike. A pot of tulips, daffodils or other spring flowering bulbs is sure to brighten a dreary winter day and elevate 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. Bulbs are planted in the fall, receive the chill they need, and add welcome color to the spring garden.
Those in warmer climates, typically zones 8, 9 and 10, need a different approach. In those areas, low chill bulbs that don’t need as long a cold period or pre-cooled bulbs are grown. The pre-cooled bulbs also sold as pre-chilled, have received the needed cold period, and can be grown like annuals.
No matter where you garden, spring flowering bulbs can be chilled in a spare refrigerator. Keep bulbs away from apples and pears. These fruits give off ethylene gas, a natural hormone that does not harm people, but can hasten ripening and interfere with flowering when bulbs are stored in the same refrigerator compartment. Check the pots occasionally and water when needed to keep the soil slightly moist, but not soggy wet.
Keep spring flowering bulb gardens in a cool, bright location to extend their bloom time. Once the plants are done blooming, you can add them to the compost pile. If you prefer to enjoy them for a second season and beyond, you’ll need to provide some post-flowering care. Remove the faded flowers and move the container to a sunny window. Keep watering thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil begin to dry. Pour 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 and the danger of frost has passed, you can move them into the garden. Tulips and hyacinths perform best in sunny areas with well-drained soils. These two bulbs tend to flourish for a year or two and then produce few or no flowers. Keep that in mind as you plan for the future.
Daffodils and grape hyacinths will grow in sun or shade and a variety of soil types. These tend to be long lived as they grow and spread over time. It may be two years before you have flowers but it’s a great way to extend the enjoyment of a holiday gift.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts the “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Her website is MelindaMyers.com.