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Forced bulbs brings spring color inside for the winter

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You can bring the colors of early spring indoors just in time for winter by following the suggestions of Patrick Byers, MU Extension horticulturalist.

You can bring the colors of early spring indoors just in time for winter by following the suggestions of Patrick Byers, MU Extension horticulturalist.

Fall is here, and already some of us are looking forward to spring. But why not bring a bit of spring indoors during the winter?

One way to do this is by forcing spring-blooming bulbs into bloom in mid-winter, says Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Common bulbs used for forcing are tulips (require 15-18 weeks of chilling before planting), daffodil (chill 8-12 weeks), crocus (chill 6-8 weeks), grape hyacinth (chill 10-12 weeks). You can also force snowdrops and hyacinths, including rooting them in water. One particular favorite for many of us around the holidays is Amaryllis, for their wonderful huge flowers to enjoy indoors during the winter. They are SO easy to grow. They really don’t need dirt (you can use peat) and they barely need any water. Just don’t assume they will only bloom once. Amaryllis will bloom again and again if you give them they chance to go dormant and start over weeks and even a year later.

“To help mimic winter, keep bulbs chilled in a refrigerator. Pot them up (in shallow pots) before the end of October and then keep them in a cool area until they sprout. Good areas include a barely heated garage, a barn, a cool basement, or an enclosed porch,” said Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Bring the container out of cool storage when growth pops up an inch or so above the soil and put it in a well-lit location. A full sun, southern exposure may get too warm and reduce blooming. Water the container lightly if the soil dries out. Plants will bloom in three to four weeks.

“Bulbs must develop a root system after planting but before bloom. Cool temperatures are needed for this to happen, and 40 degrees is ideal,” said Byers.

After blooming is done and the weather outside warms, gradually get the plants outdoors a few hours each day and then transplant them into the ground.

“Forcing bulbs is stressful to them and more tender types, like hyacinths and tulips, may not survive into next year,” said Byers.

For more information on forcing bulbs, call University of Missouri Extension at 417-881-8909 or visit MU Extension online at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene.

 

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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