Question: I bought several cheap bags of daffodils and tulips on clearance this past December but didn’t get them into the ground on time. Spring is right around the corner, can I still plant them?
Don’t toss those bulbs! Despite all the fuss about proper planting times, most bulbs are hardy little packages that can be saved with some minor intervention. Heaps of bulbs are hard on the wallet — off-season specials are a smart way to create an endless parade of spring blooms on the cheap. Of course, some bulbs are on sale for a reason, so choose firm, plump bulbs and leave shriveled or moldy bulbs at the store.
Dutch bulbs such as daffodils and tulips require some chill time before spring planting. Daffodils require approximately 12-16 weeks, while tulips call for a lengthy 14-20 weeks. Stash your bulbs bare inside mesh or paper bags and pop them into your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Keep them away from apples or other ripe fruit since the ethylene gas they emit can cause your bulbs to rot. Take a peek every once and a while to be sure they haven’t mummified in the bag — good ventilation is key. Don’t freak out if they start to grow gnarly sprouts — a living bulb is a good bulb! And if they do nothing: that’s okay too.
To give your bulbs an added edge, try pre-planting them into containers of potting soil. Chill in an unheated garage, cold cellar, or shed and water them now and then to help form roots right in the pot.
Try and wait until the minimum chill time has passed before planting your bulbs out in the garden. Needless to say, you stand nothing to lose if they have to go outside early. Most bulbs won’t survive a year in regular storage so better late than never. Bloom time is bound to be off schedule this year, or won’t happen at all. No worries, your plants will reschedule themselves and produce heaps of flowers next spring.