Friday, March 22, 2013

Forced Bulbs for Indoors

A lovely gift of forced bulbs was given to me three weeks ago and now the blooms have faded. Since this is a perpetual gift opportunity, I want the bulbs to last, so I can plant them outdoors again and enjoy them year after year. One trick to doing this properly, is not allowing the bulb flowers to go to seed.

To make sure energy is returned back to the bulb, any seed producing part of the plant will need to be removed. Allowing the plant to produce seed will take away energy from the bulb (embryo inside) and will reduce flower potential for any recurrent blooms next year.
Dead head the flowers as soon as you see the bloom petals become papery and faded. Pinch back, behind the bulge on the back side of the flower. You can remove the flower stem as well, but it's not necessary. This way, the bulb plant will use its leaves and stem to photosynthesize and re-energize the bulb, not any seeds.

Seed bulge at the back of the flower petals.
Cut back near the base of the flower stalk for hyacinths too.

You can leave the flower stalk, but note it will begin to turn yellow faster than the leaves. Be careful of the stamens. They are full of pollen that can stain clothes.

Removing all the yellowing ends and lifeless stems aids in the plant to regain energy back to the bulb.
At this point, you have two options. Plant the bulbs with leaves out into the garden, when the soil is loose enough and friable to dig down to about 4-5 inches. It's best to do this when heavy frosts are over. Or allow the bulbs to grow in the pot on a sunny window sill. The bulb foliage will begin to yellow and die down in both instances.You can fertilize the plants with blood and bone meal, or fertilizer combinations that have a high middle number (phosphorous). Keep them well watered, but not overly moist. Regular watering and feeding will enlarge the flower embryo inside the bulb.

Once all the leaves are yellow, tug on them slightly and when its the right time, they will come free from the bulb beneath the soil. Plant the bulbs outdoors, or store in a cool, dry place for the fall.

However, if you do want the seeds of such bulb plants, then let nature take it's course. Leave the flowers on the plant stalks and let them drop their petals or dry completely.  Harvest the dried flower pods and separate the seeds from the stalk.
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