CARMEN KETRON: Bulbs delight indoors in winter | Agriculture

Clemson Extension

When I was planning my wedding a few years ago, my mother and I got it into our heads that we were going to force bulbs to have as centerpieces at the reception. We went back and forth about timing and as a seasoned gardener she told me the worst thing that could happen was we forced them too early.

Well, you couldn’t tell me anything back then, because I was an “educated” horticulturist and I had it in my head that earlier was better. I convinced her to take the bulbs out of the garage early from their cold storage to break dormancy and filled up her bathroom jacuzzi tub with pots of narcissus bulbs. Almost any plant with a bulb, corm, or rhizome can be forced to bloom indoors during the winter if you have the right combination of cold and dark conditions to break dormancy, develop roots, and flower.

Down in our southern states many people get bulbs in the early fall when there is the best selection and keep them in the fridge to imitate a cold season. Hyacinths, tulips, crocus, daffodils and jonquils, or really any bulbs in the genus Narcissus make excellent options to force for indoor color in the winter.

We decided to get some of the bulbs blooming in potting soil and some in just water. We were growing a paperwhite narcissus in small hurricane glass containers. These specialty jars could suspend the bulb over water to allow just the roots to reach down and grab the water without drowning the bulbs. This technique can be done with paperwhites and hyacinths. We also used clay containers with drainage holes and filled the bottom with equal parts soil, builders’ sand, and peat moss. Once the pots were partially filled, we started to pot the bulbs up.