Forcing bulbs for winter bloom is an interesting and rewarding project. You just need simple equipment that can be found around the home, or at the garden center.
Start with the largest and best bulbs available. Since only a few are needed, the cost is negligible. The best bulbs are clean looking, firm, show no signs of withering, and are free of insect and disease damage.
The most satisfactory containers for forcing bulbs are shallow, old-fashioned clay pots, sometimes called bulb pans. Elaborate containers may be used if they allow the water to drain properly.
A good-quality potting soil should be used for the bulbs. The exception would be hyacinths and paper-white narcissus, which may be grown in water.
It is usually best to pot the bulbs in October or November. The number of bulbs per pot will vary according to pot and bulb size. Keep them in darkness at about 40 degrees for 8-12 weeks in a cold frame outdoors, an unheated garage or basement, or in your refrigerator. (Do not let the bulbs freeze). Do not allow the soil in the pots to dry out.
After the roots are extensively developed and the shot is emerging from the bulbs, place the pots in a cool, bright room at 55 degrees. They will bloom in about one month. High temperatures or poor light will cause stretching and weak stems.
Some of the easiest bulbs to force are crocus, galanthus, hyacinth, narcissus, daffodil, scilla and tulip. A favorite bulb to force is the amaryllis, which makes an eye-catching display in any home of office.
Try forcing some bulbs this winter and add some color to your home. They also make excellent gifts.
Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call 821-2349, or send e-mail to email@example.com. The Web page for Extension offices in Richmond and Columbia counties is www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.