If you have been in our Visitor Center recently you may have noticed we recently received a generous donation of fall bulbs from a local retailer that wasn't able to sell them. While the best way to a bounty of spring flowers from bulbs such as tulips is to sow them directly in the ground in the fall, past seasons bulbs can still be planted for future blooms in the spring.
Those who choose to plant fall bulbs in the spring have two options; forgo this seasons blooms and plant for future seasons or force the bulbs into blooming for this season. If you choose to force the bulbs, the plants are less likely to return in future seasons. Either method still offers you the opportunity to enjoy blooms this spring, or in future years, at a low cost.
Forcing the bulbs:
To force the bulbs to bloom this spring, you will need to trick the plant into thinking it is spring. By placing the bulbs in a cool, dark environment for 4-6 weeks you will be able mimic the winter conditions necessary to encourage blooming in most bulb varieties. It is easy to do this at home by storing bulbs in your refrigerator in a paper bag, or outdoors in a location that remains cool but does not freeze. Some bulbs such as tulips, need a longer chilling period requiring up to 16 weeks in a dark cool environment to bloom reliably, we encourage you to research the bulb variety of your choice ahead of time. Once bulbs have been chilled, you can plant them in a planter outdoors, or keep them inside in soil or water. The roots of your bulb should be kept moist, while the upper portions of the bulb should not remain submerged in water. This can be achieved by using a specially designed forcing vase, or by using substrate such as crushed glass or rock in a vase or bowl of your choice to keep the bulbs elevated above the waterline. With any luck you will be able to enjoy gorgeous spring blooms from last seasons bulbs, indoors or out! Because the bulbs did not have the opportunity to establish root structures in the fall and the high energy demand created by flowering, you are less likely to see bulbs that have been forced into bloom returning in future years.
Planting the bulbs outdoors:
If you choose to plant your bulbs in the ground without chilling them ahead of time it is unlikely you will see spring blooms this year. Your plants will likely focus their energy into root and bulb production this season and bloom in the spring of 2024. This is easier than forcing the bulbs, and the best method if you want to enjoy spring blooms from your bulbs year after year with a spring planting. We would still recommend keeping your bulbs in a dark location while you wait to plant them outdoors if possible.
While planting bulbs in the fall is the best way to reliably see healthy spring blooms, you still have time to put those bulbs to use if you haven't gotten around to it yet!