We are now on the back end of having bulbs to force in winter or early spring, starting with a number of the bulbs that need to be vernalized or, in other words, experience some of the cold temperatures that winter brings. The main reason you start earlier is the bulbs need to start setting roots.
If the bulbs don’t set roots, you will be out of luck trying to force them in the winter. If the bulbs have six weeks of 48-degree temperatures, you should be fine for the most part for root growth. One of my teacher friends at the pool told me how she taught children about growing peas in little cups, and reminded me of this propagation idea.
Over the years I’ve forced many plants, such as bulbs, twigs and roots. When my wife and I were married we had wanted to fill the sanctuary at church with a pleasant scent. We were married on the 24th of April in 1999. I shall never forget the hyacinths that were forced to come into bloom on that date. The blooms were very colorful, and the scent filled every corner of the sanctuary.
Fortunately, the temperatures were kind of warm and the windows were open. Personally, I enjoy these plants any time of the year. I’ve included this sort of effort as a part of propagation because you are in a way planting a seed in hopes that we will enjoy the flowers in the future.
After we take our trees down after Christmas, we also lose all the color we had in our living rooms. As a landscape designer I do my best to have color in my yard all year long. I have evergreens like Wichita blue juniper, golden yew, and dwarf Hinoki false cypress that all still have color, mostly green or variants of green. After the evergreens we can still see other exciting colors in the garden.
Beautyberry, snowberry and holly should be plants you attempt to grow in your yard for the winter blues. If you grow beautyberry, they have a marvelous iridescent lilac-color berry. You really should try to find a spot for this shrub in your yard. Bits and pieces of color are how I try to overcome my winter day blahs.
For most gardeners the shows of color are not as exciting as having something in bloom. When I had a plant rental business many years ago we promised some of our clients something in bloom all year long. This option gave us a particular advantage when it came to exciting options for our clients. Over the years one of our clients developed a particular clientele that would come in once a week to see what we would have in bloom in the restaurant. We had worked on any number of ideas to get blooms, but one of my favorite methods of getting color into the design is forcing bulbs to come into bloom. As a normal thing I did push the envelope on procedures in forcing bulbs.
How to force bulbs into bloom
Here is a step-by-step process to force bulbs to come into bloom. You can vary when you would want to bring cold-treated bulbs such as hyacinths; you have to see how well the hyacinth set root. The longer the bulb has had an opportunity to set root the better the chance to remove the bulb and plant in the soil for the next season. Allowing the bulbs to have a chance to set root for a number of weeks prior to freezing temperatures is one of the keys to getting the bulbs to grow. For a guide you can go to this link. astrollthroughthegardenbyericlarson.blogspot.com/2022/11/forcing-over-15-hardy-bulbs-and-tubers.html.
Step one in forcing bulbs is planting bulbs in a large enough pot to give it a chance to grow with a standard sort of potting soil. Water the bulb after planting. I put some leaves around the pots to provide some minimal protections for some years and straw other years. For this step you must plant the bulbs early enough to set root. Each plant will have its own set of requirements for setting their roots.
After at least six weeks of freezing temperatures outside and a minimum of four weeks to allow the roots to set for most bulbs, you should be able to bring your pot with the hyacinth indoors. Don’t bring the pot into a warm room right away. The process is called hardening off by placing the pot in a cool room for at least one week in temperatures of 50 degrees in a sunny window. At this point you should be able to see some growing action. We shall talk more about this project in weeks to come.
If you don’t have a cooler room, you can use a hot frame. Hot frames are insulated, heated and do not take up extra space. What is exciting is that you can use half of the box for normal winter crops and then, as you would harvest the winter crops, you can set in bulb pots with the hyacinths in the spaces were those other crops were located and then into your house.
If you have any gardening questions for me, you can e-mail me at [email protected]. I shall do the best I can in answering the questions for you. Hope you are able to enjoy some form of gardening this week around your house. Remember fall is here, and winter is coming but only lasts for so long. You can see my blog soon at ohiohealthyfoodcooperative.org comments are welcome.
Eric Larson of Jeromesville is a veteran landscaper and gardening enthusiast and a founding board member of the Ohio Chapter of Association of Professional Landscape Designers. He encourages your gardening questions by sending an email to [email protected].