Forcing Bulbs for the Winter: Hyacinths

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Aiolos Hyacinth in Bloom in February
The hyacinths bloomed January 25th and the tulip February 17, 2022. Both were planted December 6th after four weeks in the refrigerator.

I am planning to start another round of indoor forced bulbs this February in hopes we can have some blooms throughout the spring to inspire and gift to others for all the coming celebrations. In the fall I put in an order for Aiolos HyacinthHakuun TulipPurissima Blonde Tulip, and Saffron Crocus. I planted about three-quarters of these bulbs in the garden but reserved the rest to put in the back of our refrigerator in a box where they could experience a period of cold dormancy. I have been slowly pulling these bulbs out and planting them in pots. These winter-forced bulb experiments have yielded new learning about how best to force more healthy bulbs with better blooms.

This planter contains three hyacinth bulbs, four tulip bulbs, and seven Muscari bulbs, which have proven too many for such a small space. 

The first lesson has been to force just one type of bulb per planter and give them more room for root expansion by planting fewer. I say this for two reasons: 1) in the photo above the hyacinths came up first and did well enough, but the subsequent tulips just haven't done as well, and; 2) since the flowers don't bloom at the same time anyway, I think they would have been better off in their own smaller containers that could be cycled in and out of rotation once their blossoms had withered. 

The second lesson is that bulbs are offered seasonally, so it is important to purchase in the fall if you want forced winter blooms and to store them in a cool dark place. This allows for succession planting of bulbs all winter long in the absence of their availability.


The final lesson (for now) has been that bulbs may not need as long of a cold and dark dormant period as advertised in my online research.  The bulbs pictured above were put into the fridge November 11th, 2021 and planted December 6th, 2021 and all did begin to grow and bloom. The remaining bulbs have been chilling for three months, so we shall soon see if this makes a difference for their overall growth and blooms.

Like many of my posts, I will be adding additional lessons as I learn them. As I prepare to plant force indoor bulbs for spring, I will update with photos and additional tips and tricks gleaned from my own successes and mishaps.

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