Now is the time of the year to begin potting your favorite spring bulbs to prepare them for winter flowering. Tulips, narcissus (daffodils), hyacinths, crocus, scillas, grape hyacinths and lily of the valley can be forced into flower in late winter and early spring. A pot of tulips on the windowsill in February can make a winter-worn gardener renew the desire to survive the winter.
First, only top-quality, good-sized bulbs should be used. Your local greenhouse operator will tell you the varieties that are best suited for forcing. Since varieties vary in flowering dates, do not mix varieties in the same container.
Begin by potting the bulbs in clean, sterile clay or plastic pots. Normally the “noses” of the bulbs are exposed. Do not bury the bulbs. The soil should be an open mixture of good garden loam (three parts), peat moss (two parts) and sand (one part). Don’t worry about soil fertility or feeding bulbs because they have enough stored food to flower one time.
Plant the bulbs close together in the pot. Usually six tulip bulbs, three hyacinths, six daffodils or 15 crocus will fit into a 6-inch pot. The flat side of the tulip bulb should be placed next to the rim of the pot since the largest leaf will always emerge and grow on that side, producing a more desirable-looking pot.
It’s extremely important that bulbs be handled with care at all times. Never allow the bulbs to be in temperatures above 65 degrees F. When planting, the pot should be loosely filled with soil. Don’t press the bulbs into the soil and allow 1/4 inch of space at the top of the pot so it can be watered easily. The bulbs should be watered immediately upon planting and thereafter the soil should never be allowed to become dry.