As bulb catalogs arrive in your mailbox during the summer begin to think about how wonderful a pot of tulips, daffodils, or hyacinths would look in January. Take time now to plan your order and mail it in by August so you get your bulbs by October. Bringing bulbs into flower during the winter is not difficult but does take time and the sooner you start the sooner you can enjoy the floral treat.
In order to force bulbs into flower in the winter, earlier than they would normally bloom you are going to have to fool Mother Nature by giving the potted bulbs a chilling period (several months) to simulate winter and then exposing them to a warm period that simulates spring and stimulates growth. To have flowers by January you have to start in October.s
There are many different kinds of tulips and they take about 14-17 weeks from potting to bloom. The difference in bloom time depends on the kind of tulip you are growing, some naturally bloom earlier than others. Kaufmanniana and greigii hybrids are good early ones. Early single and early double tulips also do well but triumph, and parrot tulips are also possibilities. Good cultivars for forcing include’Apricot Beauty’ (Triumph), ‘Monsella’ (Early Double), ‘Estelle Rijnveld’ (Parrot), ‘Yokohama’ (Early Single).
For information about selecting tulips for the garden see my post “10 Points to Ponder When Choosing Tulips”.
You can have soft pastel colored flowers with abundant fragrance by forcing Hyacinth orientalis, those stiff, old fashioned, delightful bulbs that you don’t see much any more. They need about 12-16 weeks to bloom depending on the cultivar. Good cultivars include ‘Blue Jacket’ (dark blue), ‘City of Haarlem’ (soft primrose yellow), ‘Delf Blue’ (violet blue), ‘Pink Pearl’ (fushia pink with paler edges), and ‘Jan Bos’ (pinkish-red) ‘L’Innocence’ (white).
For information on selection hyacinths for the garden see my post on “Points to Ponder When Selecting Hyacinths”.
Daffodils take about 12-16 weeks from the time they are potted to produce flowers so should be started in October for winter bloom. Good yellow ones are ‘Carlton’, ‘Dutch Master’, February Gold’ ‘Tete a Tete’, and ‘Peeping Tom’. Good white ones are ‘Cassata’ , ‘Mt. Hood’, and ‘Ice Follies’. If you like bicolor daffodils try ‘Barrett Browning’, ‘Fortunte’, ‘Jack Snipe’, ‘Juanito’, or’ Las Vegas’. Good doubles include ‘Bridal Crown’ and ‘Repleat’.
For information on selecting daffodils/narcissus for the garden see my post “How to Choose Narcissus for Fall Planting”.
These small bulbs are easy to force but difficult to keep blooming as their flowers fade quickly unless kept cool. They well take 14-15 weeks from pot to flower. Good cultivars for forcing include Pickwick, Rembrance, Flower Record, Peter Pan, and Purpurea Grandiflora.
Grape Hyacinths (Pictured above)
The small blue tightly packed flowers of grape hyacinths in winter make a delightful accent in any room. I love them in the garden and even more on a table near a favorite chair so I can enjoy the flower spikes up close. Like crocuses they take about 14-15 weeks from pot to flower. All grape hyacinths can be forced but ‘Blue Spike’ and ‘Giant Blue’ are especially nice.
Ordering from a reliable mailorder company is probably the best way to get good quality bulbs at the right time; they will send your bulbs when you need them so tell them that you plan to force them. If you buy the bulbs in a local store check to make sure that they are not soft and have not sprouted. Either way, buy large, high quality bulbs top-size bulbs for best results.