Mother Nature has created an amazing number of ways for plants to survive harsh conditions. Many plants have developed elaborate food storage systems. Corms, rhizomes, tubers, tuberous roots and bulbs are either swollen stem or root systems by which plants store food. Most people collectively refer to all of these systems as "bulbs." Think of bulbs as the "camels" of the plant world.
When it is cold and snowy outside what could be cheerier than a pot of blooming tulips or hyacinths? Making bulbs flower inside, not at their normal bloom time, is called "forcing." The best bulbs for forcing are the spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and crocus.
The first thing to do is to purchase top-size, good-quality bulbs from your local garden center. Flower bulbs already contain everything they need in order to grow, all we have to do is to trick them into doing it. Since bulbs need cool soil temperatures in order to produce roots it is our job to fool them into thinking that they have experienced a cold winter. This is called "chilling" your bulbs. You can "chill" your bulbs either before or after you have planted them. Bulbs must be chilled 12-14 weeks. Some bulbs are labeled as "pre-chilled." Pre-chilled bulbs still need an additional 10 weeks of chilling in order to bloom well. Stunted or poorly developed flowers means that they were not chilled long enough. You can chill your bulbs either outside, in a cold garage or cold frame or in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator.
Next, we need to select the proper type of pot. The best containers for forcing are shallow pots called 'bulb pans' or 'azalea pots.' These pots are not as deep as a regular flower pot. Your container must have drainage but can be either plastic, clay or ceramic. Remember to use a good quality potting mix. Bulbs forced in soil may be planted outside after they have bloomed. Bulbs can also be forced with only gravel and water but these bulbs should be discarded after flowering.
Bulbs can be planted very close, even touching each other, in pots. When planting tulips place their flat side out towards the rim of the pot. This way the first leaves that emerge will drape attractively over the rim of the pot. You can plant several types of bulbs together for a "miniature" garden effect. Once planted, water your bulbs well before chilling. Your bulbs must be chilled between 35-48 degrees F. If chilling your bulbs potted in your refrigerator, place the pot in a plastic bag to prevent dessication.
After 12-14 weeks bring your pot indoors into a warm location and water. No fertilizer is needed at this time. Once you begin to see growth move your pot to a sunny location. In about 3-4 weeks you will then have a blooming pot of spring flowers. If you are the impatient sort, try forcing Paperwhite narcissus or Amaryllis bulbs indoors. These warm climate bulbs do not need to be chilled, thus saving you that 12-14 week waiting period!
Anne Marie - bright pink
Delft Blue - porcelain blue
Jan Bos - red
L'Innocence - white
Carnegie - white
Myosotis - pale blue
Ostara - dark blue
Pink Pearl - pink
City of Haarlem - yellow
King of the Blues - deep blue
Lady Derby - rose pink
Information from: "Spring Bulbs for Indoor Forcing," Rothenberger, R.R., University Extension, University of Missouri - Columbia, Reprinted 6/91/5M
Canna "Pretoria' - Shelter Gardens, Columbia, Missouri
'Elephant Ear' is a common name given to plants in the Alocasia & Colocasia plant families. These plants thrive in hot humid locations and can be planted in full sun or bright shade. They prefer a deep, rich, evenly moist soil and dislike windy, dry sites.
The best time to plant these dramatic plants outdoors is when the soil temperature is 60 degrees F. or warmer. Night temperatures should be above 55 degrees F. In northern states you can start your Elephant Ear bulbs indoors by planting them in containers with a good quality potting mix. Elephant Ear bulbs should be planted shallowly with the top of the bulb barely showing at the surface. The narrow tapered end of the bulb is the top.
Elephant Ears anchor this flower bed. Shelter Gardens, Columbia, Missouri.
In areas with cold winters, you can carry the beauty of summer-blooming bulbs from year to year by taking a little time each fall to dig up these bulbs, a process called "lifting." Some plants that will need to be brought in are cannas, tuberous begonias, dahlias, gladiolus and calla lilies.
Achimenes sp. Hot Water Plant
|rhizome||45-50 degrees F.||Store cool and dry. Dig when leaves turn yellow and let dry after digging. Start indoors in April.|
Acidanthera sp. Peacock orchid
|corm||35-40 degrees F.||Dig 6 or 8 weeks after bloom. Store as gladiolus.|
Anemone coronary Windflower
|tuber||40-45 degrees F.||Store like dahlias. Frequently sold as an autumn planted bulb, but not reliably winter hardy in the midwest.|
Begonia X tuberhybrida Tuberous Begonia
|tuberous root||50-55 degrees F.||Dig when foliage turns yellow and cure with foliage. Remove foliage and store in sphagnum peat or vermiculite.|
Caladium bicolor Fancy leaved caladium
|tuber||50-55 degrees F.||Dig when foliage turns yellow or after frost has killed foliage. Cure with remaining foliage and store in sphagnum peat or vermiculite.|
Zantedeschia sp. Calla lily
|rhizome||40-50 degrees F.||Dig when foliage turns yellow or when foliage is damaged by frost. Store in sphagnum peat or vermiculite.|
Canna X generalis Canna
|rhizome||40-50 degrees F.||Dig after frost has damaged foliage and allow foliage to dry a few days before digging. Dig carefully to avoid damage which will cause rotting. Store in sphagnum peat, vermiculite, or sand.|
|corm||35-40 degrees F.||Treat as gladiolus.|
|tuberous root||40-50 degrees F.||Dig after frost has damaged or killed foliage. Dig carefully to avoid damage. Cure in high humidity to avoid dessication. Pack roots in vermiculite or sphagnum peat. Roots can be placed in plastic bags with small perforations or boxes and covered with vermiculite or peat.|
|corm||35-40 degrees F.||Treat as gladiolus.|
|corm||35-40 degrees F.||Dig 6 or 8 weeks after bloom or when frost kills foliage. Cure 2 to 3 weeks in a dry well-ventilated area at about 60-70 degrees F. Remove old corm and cormels. Store in labeled paper bags.|
Gloriosa superba Glory lily
|tuberous roots||40-50 degrees F.||May be stored in the pot or dig the tuberous roots and store like dahlias. May be started indoors again after 2 months storage.|
Hymenocallis narcissifoli Ismene, Peruvian daffodil, Spider Lily
|bulb||60-65 degrees F.||Dig before frost. Avoid breaking the heavy roots attached to the bulb. Store upside down in vermiculite or dry sand.|
|corm||35-40 degrees F.||Dig before freezing. Otherwise store and handle as gladiolus. Do not break corm cluster apart until spring.|
Oxalis sp. Wood sorrel
|bulb||35-40 degrees F.||Dig after tops freeze and store in paper bags or in vermiculite.|
Tigridia pavonia Peacock flower
|corm||35-40 degrees F.||Dig 6 to 8 weeks after bloom or after frost. Cure and store like gladiolus.|
Polianthus tuberosa Tuberose
|tuber||55-65 degrees F.||Dig after tops die or are killed by frost. Store in plastic bags with sand or vermiculite.|
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