KUSA - If you bought too many tulip bulbs--or didn't get them in the ground--there's still time to plant them in pots. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths can easily be potted for a spring show on the patio. This practice is called "forcing" although it's more coaxing than the use of force.
The bulbs you bought this fall have already been out of the ground for six months. They can't wait until spring to be planted. They will dry up. In addition, bulbs require a winter chill as part of their life cycles.
It's easiest to use plastic gallon pots. These can be sunk into decorative pots later when you put them on the patio.
Fill the pots halfway with soil. Five or six bulbs will fit comfortably. Plant them with the pointed end up and then fill the pot with soil nearly to the top.
The next step in to find a dark, cool place for the pots to spend the winter. Bulbs are tough, but not tough enough to spend winter outside in pots with freezing air blasting them from all sides. An unheated basement room, unheated garage, crawlspace, window well or garden shed will suffice. Place the pots of bulbs in trays and water thoroughly. Check on them monthly to make sure the soil is moist but not soggy.
Winter temperatures just barely above freezing are ideal for your potted bulbs. They can take it down to about 25 degrees but not much further.
Depending on your conditions, it will take from 12 to 16 weeks for the bulbs to root and grow. They'll signal when they're ready by sending up shoots. When the new leaves are about an inch high, bring the pots onto the patio. Continue to provide water as they grow and flower. After they finish flowering, transplant them into the garden for many more years of colorful spring flowers.
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