Save Your Plant – Forced Bulbs

In this part of the world (southern Ontario) it isn’t uncommon for people to begin craving springtime as early as February. People reach out to brighter days and warmer weather anyway they can. One of the easiest ways to satisfy this need is to purchase forced bulb plants such as crocuses, tulips, narcissus and hyacinths. Unfortunately since these plants don’t flower long enough to make it through until spring, many of us are left with several pots of dead plants by the time the first crocuses appear.

Bulb Plants That Are Commonly Forced:

  • Crocus
  • Narcissus
  • Tulip
  • Hyacinth
  • Lily
  • Dwarf Iris (Reticulata)

These plants may be withered but they aren’t dead yet. With a little extra work you can save them and give them a second life in your garden, resulting in more value for your buck. However, they will not grow indoors again so do not attempt to force them a second time. Forcing bulbs drains their energy resources and throws them out of whack. The only bulb that can withstand a repeat performance of this process is the amaryllis (Hippeastrum).

When the flowers are dead, cut them off with a sharp pair of pruners and leave the foliage intact. Continue watering the plant as usual and be sure to keep it in a sunny area near a light source. The leaves must be able to continue producing energy through the process of photosynthesis.

When the leaves turn yellow and begin to fade, reduce watering to about half. Once the leaves have withered entirely, discontinue watering and allow the soil to dry out.
After the soil has dried out, remove the bulbs from the pot and cut off the dead foliage near the base of the bulb. Wipe the bulb clean with a dry cloth. Do not allow it to become wet again. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry and dark place such as a paper or mesh bag. There must be ample air circulation and the bulbs must remain dry or they may rot.

In the fall plant the bulbs outside in your garden or give them to someone with a garden if you don’t have one. The plant will put on a poor show the first year with undersized, few, or no blooms but should perform well the following year.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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