Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Forcing Spring Bulbs

hyacinths-a bulbous plant of the lily family, with strap-like leaves and a compact spike of bell-shaped fragrant flowers. Native to western Asia, hyacinths are cultivated outdoors and as houseplants.

Forcing a hyacinth bulb will cause it to grow and bloom earlier than it normally would and allow it to grow in a different environment.  I Bought a vase and bulb for mom one Christmas and got it started for her. She enjoyed watching it develop roots and finally bloom. So I bought a "kit" last year at a discount store and wasn't sure if the bulb would bloom because it looked really dried out. I figured if it didn't bloom at least I would have another vase! But to my surprise it started to bloom while we were on vacation and now is in full flower.

Spring flowering bulbs add color indoors in late winter. Hyacinths also have a wonderful sweet scent. One of the simplest methods is to force the bulbs into a vase filled with water instead of soil. Special containers, called hyacinth vases, are shaped like an hourglass. The bottom portion holds water while the top supports the bulb as it grows. As the name implies, hyacinth bulbs grow well in these vases but you can also use them for crocuses or narcissus varieties.

Things You'll Need

*Hyacinth vase
*Bulbs (prechilled)

If your bulbs are not prechilled this process takes a little longer. Unless they are marked as "prechilled," most flowering bulbs require a period of 35-45 degrees F. order to root and flower.(This simulated winter is not required for amaryllis or paperwhites, which can be potted up according to package directions, watered, and set out in a bright spot.)  The length of time needed for chilling varies by type. In general, smaller bulbs like crocus, grape hyacinths, miniature daffodils, iris, and tulips are easy to force. Large, fragrant hyacinths are also easy. 

Although it's not hard to fool Mother Nature, you can't hurry the process. Forcing most spring bulbs into bloom requires eight to 15 weeks of chilling, though there are varieties that can be ready for prime time in just two to three weeks. When chilling bulbs in the refrigerator, store them away from fresh fruits and vegetables that can emit ethylene gas and damage the flowers developing inside the bulbs. Chill potted and bulk bulbs in closed paper bags.

Chilling and Blooming Times
  • Daffodils: 12-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Tulips: 10-16 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Crocus: 8-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari): 8-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Iris reticulata: 13-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Snowdrop (Galanthus): 15 weeks of chilling; 2 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Hyacinth: 12-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.

Whatever type of flower you decide to force, buy the largest size bulbs you can find. The bigger the bulb, the more flowers. Also, be sure the bulbs are firm, free from nicks and bruises, and that the roots haven't sprouted yet. 

Fill a hyacinth vase with water to the waist. The waist of the vase is where the vase narrows near the middle.

Set the flower bulb in the vase so the bottom of the bulb is just touching the top of the water. The bottom of the bulb rests just above the waist of the vase.

Place the vase in a dark 50 degree Fahrenheit room for four to eight weeks, or until the roots develop. Add more water to the vase as needed to maintain the water level.

Move the vase to a 68 to 70 F room near a brightly lit window once the roots are formed and after the stalk begins to emerge from the top of the bulb. Continue to replenish the water level as needed.

Rotate the vase every two to three days so the stalk grows straight and doesn't lean toward the light. Move the vase away from the window so it receives bright, indirect light once the flowers open, as this helps prolong bloom.

You can use other vases if you don't have or can't find a hyacinth vase you can use another container, just be sure to position the bulb so the bottom of the bulb rests just above the waist of the vase.

My surprise bloom!

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