Winter Bulb Magic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2012
News source/writer: Greg Stack, 708-720-7520, firstname.lastname@example.org
Winter bulb magic
URBANA – Gardeners often
view winter as a time to dream about next season's garden and enjoy the
colorful catalogs that arrive in the mailbox. Greg Stack, a University of
Illinois Extension horticulture educator, said that it is possible to bring
color to dreary winter days by coaxing bulbs into bloom.
Forcing bulbs is not complicated and is almost foolproof.
Amaryllis, paper white narcissus, and hyacinth are available just about
everywhere, are easy to make bloom, and can provide color and fragrance for
much of the winter.
Amaryllis is a dramatic plant. "These larger-than-life bulbs
are easily forced into bloom," Stack said.
When shopping for amaryllis, look for large, firm bulbs,
which often will produce two flower stalks. Choose a pot about 1 inch larger
than the diameter of the bulb.
Position the bulb so that about one-third of the bulb is
above the soil line and fill the pot with a prepared potting mix. Water well
and place the bulb in a very well-lighted area with a temperature of 65 to 70
The flower stalk will emerge first. When this happens, give
the bulb plenty of light. If growing it on a window sill, turn the pot daily so
the stalk will grow straight and not bend toward the light. Flowering will
occur six to eight weeks after potting.
After flowering, cut the spent stalk off and allow foliage
to develop. Water as needed and fertilize every 2 to 4 weeks. When all danger
of frost is past, put the bulbs, pots and all, in a semi-shaded area of the
garden. Water and fertilize all season. The leaves will manufacture food
reserves for next season's flower.
Just before the first frost, take the bulbs indoors, and let
the soil dry out and the leaves turn yellow. Store the bulbs in a cool, dark
location for 2 to 4 months. After this rest period, the bulbs can be brought
out to a growing area and will once again produce a dramatic display of
Paper white narcissus is another possibility. "It is
probably the easiest bulb to force into flower," Stack said. "All you need are
bulbs, a shallow tray, gravel, and water."
Select firm bulbs. Fill a shallow tray or pot saucer with
decorative gravel, pea gravel, or marbles. Nestle bulbs into the gravel to hold
them upright, placing the bulbs shoulder to shoulder for a nice display. Fill
the tray with water to just below the base of the bulbs and place it in a very
well-lighted spot. A temperature of 50 to 60 degrees will help to keep the
shoots short, making them less likely to fall over.
"You will be rewarded with very fragrant blooms in about 4 to
6 weeks," Stack said. For a continuous show of flowers, plant some bulbs every
2 to 3 weeks. "You'll get a succession of bloom all winter," he said.
For color indoors, hyacinth is an excellent choice.
"The trick to making a hyacinth bloom successfully indoors
is to chill the bulbs," Stack advised.
Hyacinth bulbs are often forced using a hyacinth glass,
which looks like an hourglass. Place the bulb in the top portion and fill the
bottom with water to just below the base of the bulb. Do not let the bulb sit
Place the glass in a cold, dark spot, such as a refrigerator
or an unheated space that stays between 35 to 40 degrees. Leave it there for 13
to 14 weeks of chilling, adding water as needed. If the chilling period is not
long enough, the stems on the blooms will be very short and disappointing.
After chilling, the shoots will be about 2 inches high and
yellow-green, and the lower part of the container should be full of roots. Move
the plant to an area with a temperature near 50 degrees for 3 to 4 days while
the shoots turn green. Then move it to an area where the temperature is near 60
degrees and allow it to flower, which will happen at about three weeks after
the plant is removed from the cold storage area.
"This bulb involves a bit more work, but once you smell the
fragrance of hyacinth in the house, you'll think it worth the effort," Stack
Another way to provide the chilling time needed and not
place the bulbs in the hyacinth glasses right away is to place the bulbs in a
paper bag in the refrigerator for 13 to 14 weeks. "Locate the bag away from any
ripening fruit. After that, the bulbs can be placed in the hyacinth glasses for
final forcing," Stack said.
Hyacinths and paper white narcissi that have been forced do
not do well in the garden. Discard them when they have finished blooming.
"This is how to brighten the cold, dark, snowy, icy days of
winter," Stack concluded. "Work a little bulb magic, and enjoy your time
indoors as you watch the snow fly."
Source: Greg Stack, Extension Horticulturist, email@example.com