How to force bulbs for blossoms in February

It's that time of year again. It's the dead of winter, with no end in sight. Christmas is over and with it all the excitement and magic of a cold and snowy winter; the New Year has come and gone, and now you've moved on into February-that colorless, sunless month of cold. Seasonal depression seems to be sneaking up on you, and in attempts to keep it away, you've been buying house plants like crazy. Having something alive, inside your house at least, seems to make things more bearable. But here's an idea for next year: take your tulip, hyacinth crocus, etc. bulbs that you planted last year (or even buy some new ones) and force them into blooming in February!

This is not a terribly difficult process, but does take some know-how and understanding of how plants grow. This six step process will teach you the quick and simple way to force bulbs for blossoms in February.

1. Plan ahead. If you're hoping for blossoms during the winter, you should plan to begin potting your spring bulbs in October. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, scillas, grape hyacinths, and lily of the valley are all bulbs that can be forced into flower in the late winter. And we all know how pleasant it can be to see a pot of tulips in the window sill in February. It may be the one thing that gets you through the winter.
2. Use high quality bulbs. Since planting indoors usually involves a much smaller space than outdoors, you want to be sure that planting fewer bulbs will still yield healthy blooms. You should consult with your neighborhood greenhouse operator who will be able to tell you which bulbs will be best suited for forcing.
3. Don't mix varieties. Mixed varieties of bulbs usually have different flowering dates. You don't want to mix them in the same container because you may end up with flowers that don't bloom until spring, which defeats the purpose of forcing them to bloom.
4. Potting the bulbs. Plant the bulbs in clean, sterile clay or plastic pots. The "noses" of the bulbs should be slightly exposed above the surface. Do not bury the entire bulb. Your soil should be a mixture of good garden loam (three parts), peat moss (two parts) and sand (on part). You won't need to worry about fertilizer or feeding the bulbs because they have enough stored food to flower one time. Plant the bulbs close together in the pot. If planting tulips, the flat side of the bulb should be placed next to the rim of the pot because the largest leaf will grow on that side, producing a more attractive pot. Water the bulbs immediately after planting.
5. Expose the bulbs to cold. Bulbs must experience cold temperatures (around 35-48 degrees) for a minimum of 12-13 weeks. This can be achieved by a cold frame, an unheated cellar or attic, or a refrigerator (in the fridge, pots should be covered with plastic bags with a few breathing holes punched into them). Do not allow the bulbs to freeze.
6. Forcing the bulbs. If the bulbs were planted on October 1, bring the pots out of cold storage right after Christmas (for a continuous supply of flowers, bring the pots out at weekly intervals). Place the pots in a cool (50-60 degrees), sunny location. This temperature is preferred at first because it allows the shoots and leaves to begin to expand. Then they may be moved to warmer locations, avoiding direct sunlight. Warmer temperatures will result in more rapid growth. Once the bulbs are blooming, you must remove the pots to a cooler location each night. This will prolong the life of the blooms.

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