If you plan it, you can cut winter
short. You can order spring to come to your house
8 to 12 weeks early. Do this simply by adopting
the florists' methods of forcing tulips, daffodils,
and hyacinths into bloom weeks ahead of normal
Buy your bulbs in the fall. Keep
them dry and in a cool spot between 40 and 50
degrees-until planted. Usually, the earlier they're
planted, the earlier they'll bloom.
Buy top-quality bulbs and select
varieties of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths
that are recommended for forcing. Your garden
center will help you. Single sorts are best for
All indoor bulbs are not grown
in the same way. Some, such as tulips and daffodils,
require a period of 8 to 10 weeks in cold storage
before they are brought into the house.
This may be provided by sinking
the potted bulbs in an 18-inch trench in the garden
and covering each pot with an inverted one, and
heap the pot with ashes to discourage worms.
If you conduct the task in the
house, a cool temperature will open subsequent
buds to their full beauty. The tender bulbs do
not require this freezing treatment, but most
of them need a few weeks in a dark, cool place
for root formation. When growth is evident, they
should be moved to a lighter and warmer location.
Use good topsoil in your containers.
If planting one without a drainage hole, you'll
need to be careful about overwatering while the
bulbs are forming their roots. Clay flowerpots,
glazed bowls, tin boxes, even paraffined cheese
cartons can be used. But nothing less than 5 inches
deep for the big bulbs, please, because when they
begin to grow they "stand up on their roots."
The tips of the bulbs need not be covered with
more than 1/2 to 1 inch of soil.
As soon as you order bulbs, get
your soil ready to plant them on their arrival.
As good a soil as any is one composed of garden
loam, sand, and well-rotted (never new) cow manure
in equal parts. One-third sand may seem too large
a proportion, but it isn't
Tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils
can be spaced as close as 1 inch apart. This means
you can have six good-size tulip bulbs or three
large hyacinth or daffodil bulbs in a 6-inch pot
and get a grand blaze of color.
Darkness, moisture, and coolness
are the three essentials while the roots are being
formed. Keep your potted bulbs moist and in some
spot where the temperature stays below 40 degrees,
and you'll get good root systems. Water the bulbs
well when you plant them. Cellar or basement is
the recommended place to keep them while they
are developing roots. It is likely to be most
convenient, and the general conditions there are
most favorable to the bulbs at this stage of their
existence. A trench in the ground covered with
boards will give good results, too, providing
the necessary degree of coolness is secured. Remove
bulbs put out of doors to form roots to some place
free from hard frost before freezing weather sets
in. Slight freezing doesn't hurt them; hard freezing
does. It is not harmful to bulbs in the ground
because its effects are overcome naturally and
Roots must come first. With these
bulbs, the bloom buds are already formed when
you buy them. Whether or not the blooms emerge
in perfect form depends on the support they get
from good root systems. Examine your pots for
progress after several weeks in their cool, dark
spot. If you hold your hand across the top, you
can turn the pot on its side and let the soil
slip far enough for you to see whether the pot
is filling, or just starting to fill, with white
Of the three big bulbs, hyacinths
are the trickiest. Hyacinth bloom buds should
have come up far enough to show in the heart of
the leaf rosette before you bring the pots into
the light. With most kinds, better wait until
the top of the bud spikes are 2 inches above the
When buds are up, bring the pots
into the light for two days, but still keep them
as cool as possible-certainly under 60 degrees.
On the third day, promote them to prominent and
sunny spots in your windows.
Potted bulbs must never be allowed
to dry out. Constant moisture at their roots will
not only promote good growth but prolong the life
of the flowers after they open.
Your hyacinths, tulips, daffodils,
crocuses, and grape-hyacinths can be saved for
planting in the garden. Care for them as you do
any other house plant until mid-April when they
can be slipped with root balls undisturbed into
garden soil. Some bulbs will skip a year before
blooming, yet all will flower again. But buy new
bulbs for forcing indoors this way next year.