Ask Elaine: Care of Potted Spring Bulbs

I received a number of potted spring bulbs from loving friends for the spring holiday. Can any of the flowers be saved?

Many thanks,

Dear Lily,

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How very kind of your friends to bring you flowers! Your potted flowering bulbs were carefully “persuaded” to bloom by a specific date. Commercial growers potted up the bulbs last fall, stored them in refrigerated units and then moved them into temperature-controlled greenhouses according to a precise schedule. This process of artificial winter and spring is called “forcing.” If given proper attention, your forced bulbs can be planted in your garden after they are finished flowering and live to bloom again.

To enjoy the plants indoors for the longest time possible, keep them in a cool room near a south-facing window. Rotate the pots daily. Remove the foil and put the pot on a pebble tray or inside a decorative pot. Water every few days but do not get the soil soggy. Remove blooms as they wither. Continue watering until the leaves begin to yellow.

When most of the leaves have yellowed, cut away the leaves, remove the bulbs from the pot, clean off the soil and gently squeeze the bulb. If the bulb is mushy, discard it. Firm bulbs can be planted in the ground at a depth of three times their diameter. A sprinkle of bonemeal in the planting hole is a nice option. The bulbs will bloom next year, according to their natural cycle.[/su_column] [su_column size=”1/2″]

  • Daffodils – plant 6-8 inches in the ground. They happily return.
  • Hyacinths – plant 6-8 inches in the ground. They return with looser flower clusters.
  • Tulips – plant 7-8 inches in the ground. Their return is not always guaranteed.
  • Lilies – plant 7-8 inches in the ground. They will return and bloom naturally in the summer.
  • Pansies – They are cold-tolerant perennials. Plant when the soil can be worked. Remove faded flowers to prolong blooming. They will melt away in summer and may return in the fall.
  • Azaleas – not a bulb, rather a woody plant that may not be hardy in this area. Read the tag. Some plants are forced for spring holidays and Mother’s Day and cannot endure our cold winters. Some azaleas are hardy and can be planted after all danger of frost (late May). An easterly exposure is best. Be sure to water and mulch. No fertilizer is needed.
  • Spring-blooming heath (Erica) and summer-blooming heather (Calluna) are hardy in our area, like full sun and sandy, organic, moist, low fertility, and perfectly drained soil. If this does not describe your site situation, give the plants to someone else.

Happy Spring!

Elaine Fogerty
Executive Director[/su_column][/su_row]

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