Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths may be potted up this fall (I usually do this around Thanksgiving) and grown to bloom in April. This process is called "forcing," although there isn't any force involved.
Plant the bulbs a few inches deep, spacing the bulbs very closely. They can even touch. Use pots with at least an eight inch opening. I use lightweight plastic pots. When you bring them outside in spring, these pots can be sunk inside more attractive clay or ceramic pots, which leaves room to add a ring of pansies or other flowers around them.
After planting, move the pots to their winter storage area and water them thoroughly.
The winter storage area is the part you need to plan for now. Although these spring-flowering bulbs are hardy in Colorado, it's very risky to grow them in pots left outdoors. While bulbs planted in the earth stay relatively warm, those in pots are subjected to freezing cold from all sides. Subzero temperatures can kill potted bulbs. The smart way to give the bulbs the moderate winter chill they need is to store them after planting in a protected place. This spot should be cool and dark. It can even drop below freezing, but certainly not below zero.
Possible places to store potted bulbs include cool basement rooms, unheated garages, garden sheds, window wells and crawl spaces. Some gardeners dig a trench and set the pots inside and cover them with mulch. The area should remain dark so cover the pots with cardboard, newspapers or old blankets if the area has a window.
Check the bulbs every few weeks to make sure they stay slightly moist. They send out roots through the winter and are very much alive. These bulbs need 12 to 16 weeks of chilling. Starting in late February, check them to see if the new shoots are up. When they're an inch high, it's time to bring them outdoors. By that time of year, the danger of subzero weather has largely faded.
Within a month or six weeks, the bulbs will burst into bloom. Combined with pansies, snapdragons, stock and primroses, the bulbs will provide a wonderful display well before the rest of your garden has come to life.
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