Pre chilled bulbs for sale

Customer photo from Brenda in Hanover, PA: Fragrant muscari (grape hyacinths) look especially nice when planted in large groups.

Add Fragrance and Color with Scented Blooms

While spring-flowering bulbs are grown primarily for their wonderful colors, many of them are also delightfully fragrant. Hyacinths produce colorful cones of waxy flowers with a heady fragrance, muscari (grape hyacinths) offer a sweet scent like grape juice, while some tulip and daffodil varieties have the fragrance of gardenias or orange blossoms. Here’s a look at some fragrant spring bulbs and how to grow them.

Hyacinths

Originally from the Middle East, hyacinths made their way to Europe in the 1500s. Since that time, breeders have been hybridizing to produce bigger flowers and a wider range of colors. Fortunately, breeding efforts have not compromised the hyacinth’s fantastic floral perfume.

Hyacinths look best planted by themselves or with delicate early spring perennials, such as forget-me-nots or pulmonaria.

City of Haarlem Hyacinth

Growing Hyacinths: Most varieties are 8 to 12 inches tall and come in colors such as white, yellow, pink, red, blue, and purple. Plant hyacinths in late fall in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sun. Add a small amount of bulb fertilizer in the planting hole. Plant bulbs about 8 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in beds. As hyacinths emerge in spring some varieties, such as the doubles, may need staking to prevent them from flopping over in heavy rain. After flowering, remove the spent bloom and let the foliage turn yellow and die to ensure a repeat performance the following year.

Hyacinths are quite easy to force for indoor bloom as long as they receive the correct amount of pre-cooling. Buy pre-chilled bulbs or chill your own for 12 weeks in the refrigerator. Then plant the bulb flat-side down in a shallow pot, keeping the top of the bulb just below the soil surface. Water well and place the pot in a cool, dark location until shoots appear. Once you see shoots, move the pot to a bright sunny spot with temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees F. For more on the topic, read Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Bloom.

Muscari

Muscari means musky in Latin, and this beautiful bulb’s sweet fragrance adds to its appeal. Muscari (also called grape hyacinths) feature, small, bell-shaped, blue or white flowers that look like an upside-down cluster of grapes. Plants are rarely taller than 12 inches. Naturalized in the yard or planted in garden beds, they will usually multiply readily, providing dependable color each spring with little care. Plant bulbs 3 inches deep in groups of 10 or more. The soil should be moist and well-drained in a part to full sun location. Let the foliage naturally die back after flowering.

Fragrant Daffodils and Tulips

Many daffodils and tulips provide fragrance as well as bright colors. When planting daffodils or tulips for cutting, or viewing close up, try mixing in some of these scented varieties.

Fragrant Daffodils:

  • ‘Geranium’: This multiflowered variety has pure-white petals with a small orange cup on 12- to 14-inch-tall plants.
  • ‘Thalia’: This multiflowered variety features fragrant, pure-white flowers on 12- to 15-inch-tall plants.
  • ‘Replete’: A double daffodil, this variety grows 14 to 18 inches tall with pink-and-white flowers.

Fragrant Tulips:

  • ‘Apricot Beauty’: A classic single, early-blooming, apricot-colored tulip with a sweet scent.
  • ‘Angelique’: This double, peony-flowered, pink tulip has multiple blooms per stem on 16 to 18 inch tall plants.
  • ‘Peach Melba’: Among the most fragrant of all tulips. Gorgeous, peony-like blooms.

Forcing bulbs is easy way to have spring color indoors

Many gardeners know that November and December are prime months for planting spring-flowering bulbs such as crocus, daffodils, hyacinths

and tulips outdoors. Some gardeners want a taste of that springtime event a bit earlier, and so they opt for forcing bulbs indoors.

The traditional springtime bulbs — daffodils, hyacinths and tulips — need what’s called a “pre-chilling” period before the stems will lengthen and the bulbs can bloom on taller stems. Traditionally, we say they need at least 12 weeks of temperatures in the 40-to-50-degree range before stems will grow and produce a flower stalk.

If you were to buy daffodil or hyacinth bulbs and, without chilling, pot them in soil and give them sunlight and water indoors, the stems would never stretch or grow more than an inch or two. Some companies sell pre-chilled bulbs ready for forcing, but they are not the normal bulbs we see for sale in big-box stores or nurseries.

Bulbs typically require a "pre-chilling" period before they get to this stage in the forcing process. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

If you want to have a bit of an early bloom, you can store loose bulbs for 10-12 weeks in an extra refrigerator (not exposed to other fruits and vegetables, which can give off ethylene gas that can negatively affect the bulbs). Afterward, you can pot them up and move them into a sunny room.

You can also pre-plant the bulbs in soil for storage in that extra refrigerator. Or you can store the pre-planted pots outdoors, if the weather stays in the 40s to 50s then you can bring them inside after 10-12 weeks. Pre-planting in soil allows the bulbs to begin growing roots, which can speed up the blooming process. With the roots in place, they can bloom a few weeks to a month before their outside relatives.

Glass stones are a colorful anchor for paperwhite narcissus bulbs. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

ONE AND DONE

Once bulbs have been forced into an early bloom, we recommend tossing them into a compost pile. Planted outside in the ground, everything but a tulip will come back every year, with little work on your part, but forced bulbs don’t get the needed light exposure to be viable the next season.

To be honest, forcing spring bulbs into early bloom is a lot of work for a home gardener. I just buy spring bulbs and plant them outdoors. I can expect crocus, daffodils and hyacinths to come back every year, while I treat tulips as annual plants and replant new bulbs every fall. But that is an easy task. You plant them when it is cool outside, forget about them and then enjoy beautiful flowers in the spring.

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs are one-season-only charmers in Arkansas, indoors or out. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

EVEN EASIER

To give yourself a quick taste of spring indoors without the hassle of chilling, consider paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis bulbs. Neither needs pre-chilling and can be in bloom in as little as 6-8 weeks indoors.

Paperwhite narcissus should be considered an annual plant, while amaryllis can become a permanent addition to the home garden with just a minimal amount of care.

Just like with spring-flowering bulbs, the size of the bulb determines the size or the number of blooms.

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can be "planted" in a vase with stones. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

PAPERWHITES

For the once-only blooming paperwhite narcissus, choose firm, blemish-free bulbs. Three or five bulbs are a good number to plant since odd numbers look more pleasing in a pot. Paperwhite bulbs can be planted in soil, rocks or decorative pebbles or glass beads. Pot the bulbs in whatever medium you select so they are half exposed and half covered. In a soil-less medium, fill the container with water three-quarters of the way up the stones or material.

Once exposed to sunlight, the bulbs will grow quickly. Turn the pot every 3-5 days to keep the foliage from leaning toward the light.

If your house is hot, the bulbs will grow taller. A cooler, bright location will help limit height. If you are growing them in water, a little vodka added to the water will also limit height — alcohol limits growth.

Once they begin to grow, you should have blooms within 4-6 weeks. Enjoy them for as long as they are in bloom and then discard.

Many Arkansas gardeners find amaryllis bulbs planted outdoors return year after year. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

AMARYLLIS

Amaryllis bulbs are everywhere this time of year. You can buy the loose bulb and pot them up or buy a kit with bulb, pot and soil-less media all together.

Pot them in soil in a somewhat small container — you don’t want too much space around the potted bulb, or it will be hard to have even distribution of water.

Plant the bulbs half in soil and half exposed. Water and place them in a sunny window. When they are ready to grow, they will.

Flower stems can emerge before foliage once amaryllis bulbs break dormancy. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

The flower stems can grow before the leaves appear, much like their cousins the naked ladies or lycoris. Most will produce leaves after the flower stalk appears.

Once you see growth beginning, you should have a flower within 4-6 weeks. Just as with paperwhites, you need to turn the pot. Otherwise, they will grow toward the light and be even more likely to topple over. They can be top-heavy while in bloom, so it’s helpful to weight the pots with rocks or use stakes to support the top growth.

Plant amaryllis in a small pot rather than a big one. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

Flowers on amaryllis are huge and show-stoppers. The color ranges from white, pink, red to bi-colors.

After bloom, cut the flower stalk off but allow the foliage to grow. Once all chance of frost has passed, move the plants outdoors. You can plant them in the ground or leave them in pots. Fertilize them monthly and water.

As fall approaches, reduce the amount of water and move the pots indoors. Let the plants go dormant. Many gardeners have started leaving the bulbs outdoors in the ground with good success, but a severely cold winter may alter that.

Indoors, let them lie dormant until they begin to sprout. Once you see life returning, move them to a sunny window, increase watering and begin the cycle over again.

Whether you plant bulbs outdoors or indoors, they add color and interest to a garden or home.

Read Janet Carson’s blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.

Paperwhite narcissus grow readily indoors, in soil or an anchoring medium with water. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON)

HomeStyle on 11/16/2019

How to Force Bulbs

Fall finds garden centers hawking bulbs for tulips, daffodils and other spring bloomers. You can plant these outdoors before cold weather comes, or bring them inside and engage in a little trickery for a winter bloom.

How Forcing Works
Most spring-blooming bulbs require winter chill in order to flower. But they don’t need too cold conditions for the whole winter, and you can start the process early in your refrigerator (or buy “pre-chilled” bulbs). You then simulate the coming of spring by bringing them into your warm home—and voilà, flowers in the middle of winter. Some bulbs—namely paperwhites and narcissus—don’t require chilling, so all that’s required is planting them in a warm place.

The Forcing Process
Step One – Potting
Pot up your bulbs in a lightweight potting mix, pointy end up, with about half the bulb above the soil line. Feel free to put several bulbs in a pot, leaving a half inch or so between each one. You may also purchase bulb forcing vases, hourglass-shaped containers that support the bulb above the water—no soil required. Alternatively, fill any clear glass container with gravel or pebbles and plant the bulbs per the instructions for soil.

Step Two – Chilling
Skip this step for paperwhites and amaryllis, as well as for pre-chilled bulbs. For all other bulbs, place the container in a dark location where it will remain between 35 and 45 degrees. A refrigerator is perfect—except for the fact that produce gives off a gas that inhibits bulb growth. So this is really only an option if you happen to have a second refrigerator that you can keep produce-free. An unheated basement or garage is often just right. For bulbs in soil, keep them moist but not soggy during the chilling period. For bulbs in glass containers, keep the water level just below the base of the bulbs and change it once a week or so. The bulbs will be forming roots during this period, which will grow into the water.

Step 3 – Waking Up the Bulbs
When the bulbs begin to sprout from the top—this takes between two and four months depending on the variety—bring them into a warmer, brighter space. They need to stay around 60 to 65 degrees in an area with some light (but not direct sun) for about a week as a transitional period. This is slightly below room temperature in most homes, so try the coolest room of your house (typically a lower-level room on the north side). The stems will continue to grow during this period.

Step 4 – Stimulate Blooming
After a week, move the bulbs to a warm, sunny window. Depending on the variety, flower buds will begin to form in two to four weeks. Once the buds open, the flowers will last longer if placed out of direct sunlight and away from the draft of heating vents. Remember to add water throughout this period if the soil becomes dry or the level in the glass containers falls more than a half inch or so below the base of the bulbs.

Best Varieties for Forcing
Any spring-flowering bulb can be forced to bloom indoors in winter. Here are a few varieties to consider: narcissus, amaryllis, crocus, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and snowdrops.

by High Country Gardens

Hyacinth “Miss Saigon”.

After a grey winter, we all look forward to the first flowering bulbs with their bright colors and lovely forms. Scented blooms add an extra dimension that we can enjoy and use to maximize the uplifting nature of flowers.Growing hyacinth bulbs is easy, but the common name ‘Hyacinth’ can be a little confusing. There are two types of what we commonly know of as hyacinth. Additionally, there are spring flowers such as Muscari and Scilla, that have the common name of hyacinth but are not really Hyacinth.

Probably the best-known hyacinth is the Hyacinthus orientalis, commonly known as hyacinth or Dutch hyacinth. These are the stately aristocrats of pomp and spring fragrance with upright stems packed with flowers. Native to the eastern Mediterranean, the well-bred Hyacinthus orientalis grows best in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil.

Growing hyacinth was so popular in the Netherlands in the 1800s that over 2000 cultivars were grown! Today we enjoy them in a range of colors from blue, white and pink, to violet and orange–if you can imagine a color you can probably find a hyacinth to match.

Growing Hyacinth Bulbs: Planting Tips

Hardy in zones 4-8 and growing 10-12 inches tall, they are deer-resistant stars of the spring garden. Hyacinth makes great cut flowers too. Remove flowers when finished, let foliage die back naturally to feed the bulbs for next year’s blooms.

Try grouping hyacinth around the entrance to your doorway or a garden. By planting them in groups you will intensify the aroma and the color. While hyacinth looks beautiful in groupings – they can also be used as a border in a more formal setting. Try planting them with smaller lilacs or Viburnum for an exquisite fragrance treat.

An important early source of easy-to-reach pollen for pollinators, hyacinth blooms in mid-spring along with many tulips and daffodils. Plant bulbs in the fall, 6-8 weeks before frost, 6 inches deep in compost-enriched, well-drained soil.

Wear gloves when planting! Hyacinth bulbs contain oxalic acid making them very distasteful to bulb munchers, but they can be irritating to our skin. Space them at about 6 bulbs per square foot or every 2-3 inches. Water well and water as needed during active growth, but don’t let the bulbs become water-logged as they will rot.

Interestingly, as hyacinths return in following years, their form may loosen, harkening back to their wildflower nature. (Some gardeners replace them every 1-2 years to keep the structured form, others prefer it).

Different Hyacinth Varieties

Spanish Bluebells | Woodland Hyacinth.

There are also varieties that reflect the more original form. Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English Bluebells) and Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish Bluebells or Wood Hyacinth) are heirloom varieties, native to their named lands.

Spanish Bluebells have blue, pink or white flowers on a sturdy stem about 18 inches tall. The English bluebell has dark blue, pendant like flowers on an arching 8-12 inch stem. The Spanish bluebell was introduced to England many years ago and it hybridized with the native bluebell. English bluebells are now regarded as a threatened species in the UK. North America has no native bluebells so choose freely and plant where they can naturalize. Woodland bulbs, they can grow through leaf mulch and bloom before the tree canopy above closes. In partial shade and woodsy soil, they are low-care flowers that naturalize readily. That being said, these heirloom varieties will also thrive in full sun locations.

Hyacinth Blue Jacket is great for forcing indoor blooms during the gloomy winter months.

Growing Hyacinth Indoors

In the midst of winter’s pale, there is nothing like the sweet fragrance and bright color of hyacinth. Here are 3 easy steps to bring them into winter bloom.

  1. They are easy to force, but do need a pre-chill. If you are able to find pre-chilled bulbs you can skip this step, otherwise place your hyacinth bulbs in a cool (35-45 degrees) place for 12-16 weeks. A garage or basement is often ideal for this. A refrigerator will work too, but make sure not to keep apples at the same time.
  2. According to Greek myth, Hyacinth (Hyakinthos) was a beautiful prince, beloved by the God Apollo. One day when they were throwing the discus. Hyakinthos ran to catch it to impress Apollo and was struck in the neck and died. When he died, Apollo did not allow Hades to claim the youth, rather, he made a flower, the hyacinth, from his spilled blood. Today we think of hyacinths as harbingers of spring and renewal, one of spring’s most beautiful gifts.

  3. About six weeks before you want blooms plant them in a pot with soil, or force them in water. “Forcing jars” are a Victorian tradition for a single bulb, and you can also use a straight sided jar with gravel in the bottom that will hold multiple bulbs. The bulbs must not sit in water, so don’t over water if in soil. If in water, bring the water level to just below the bottom of the bulbs and change the water once per week. Continue to keep them in their cool hideaway until roots develop and green growth is a few inches high (about 3-4 weeks).
  4. Then bring it into a cool, sunny location. After about two weeks, you’ll have beautiful fragrant blossoms to chase away winter’s blues.

For instance, if you’d like blooms for Valentine’s Day, when you receive your bulbs (or mid-Sept./Oct.) begin to chill them. If it’s warm in your area, start the pre-chill in your refrigerator, then move them to a basement or garage as temperatures drop. Just after New Year’s, follow step #2 and you are on your way to February blooms!

We’d love to hear how you use hyacinth – in your home and garden. Send photos, share stories, ask questions. We are here to help you expand your enjoyment of flower bulbs.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Forcing Hyacinths

Forcing hyacinths to bloom in water was a Victorian passion that fell out of favor in the twentieth century — perhaps because garden writers made the process seem more complicated and mysterious than it is. Hyacinth bulbs are exceptionally eager to bloom and will do so with only the slightest encouragement, providing a fragrant and long-lasting symbol of spring.

To force hyacinths, buy pre-chilled bulbs that have received a cold treatment imitating winter. The best varieties for forcing are Dutch hyacinths such as the rose-pink ‘Lady Derby,’ the lilac-blue ‘Delft Blue,’ the deep-red ‘Jan Bos,’ and the pure-white ‘Carnegie.’ Dutch hyacinths are also great perennial bulbs for the garden. If you don’t like the formality of their tight blooms, remember that the blooms loosen over the years — a feature that Martha loves.

Forcing Hyacinths How-To

Preparation

Store hyacinth bulbs in cool, damp sand until you are ready to force them. The bulbs will flower about 6 weeks after you put them in water, so if you need blossoms for an occasion, count backward to determine the planting time. This is not an exact science, so start plenty of bulbs over the course of 2 weeks to guarantee flowers for that special day.

1. Use forcing glasses, or choose containers that will hold the bulbs just above the water and allow room for the roots below, but won’t tip over when the big, heavy flowers arrive. Place a bulb on a vessel (here, an antique mustard pot), and add water until it reaches the bulb’s bottom. You’ll need to change the water twice a week by tipping the liquid out and replacing it with fresh lukewarm water.

2. Put the bulbs in a cool (40 F to 55 F), dark place until roots develop and leaves begin to sprout, about 3 to 4 weeks. Below 40 F, the bulbs will remain dormant. Above 55 F, they could rot. Basements and garages often provide the ideal conditions. Check the bulbs to be sure that the water level is high enough, and change the water periodically.

3. Once foliage begins to develop, move the bulbs to a slightly warmer (65 F), sunlit spot for flowering; a north-facing window is perfect. Turn them daily to prevent leaning, and change the water regularly. After about 2 weeks, you will have gorgeous perfumed flowers that will last (in a cool spot) another 2 weeks. Once the blooms have browned and died, throw out the bulbs. Water forcing uses every scrap of energy a bulb has to offer, so the bulbs will not re-bloom. If you want another round of blooms, order more bulbs; it’s a chance to try some different varieties.

Growing Tip

Whether they’re placed in water or soil, hyacinths will produce flowers in about 6 weeks. Start by purchasing the best-quality pre-chilled bulbs you can find, choosing ones that are large and blemish-free. To force the bulbs in soil, pot them in containers with a well-drained soil mix. Water after planting, and place in a cool, dark spot until green foliage appears, then move to a cool, sunlit location for flowering. Bulbs will rot if over-watered, so water only when the pots dry out completely. To force bulbs in water, follow the steps described below.

Tulip Bulbs In Your Refrigerator? Its Time To Plant!

Get It Growing News For 12/30/05

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

The next few weeks are an important time for planting certain spring-flowering bulbs. This includes tulips, hyacinths and other bulbs that have been previously stored in the refrigerator, as well as bulbs you intend to plant and grow in containers.

Tulips and hyacinths have to be refrigerated because our winters are not cold enough for long enough to allow them to bloom properly. The refrigerator supplies the additional chilling they need. These bulbs should be refrigerated at least six weeks to eight weeks prior to planting, which means you need to have had tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator since mid- to late November or before.

In addition, all types of spring-flowering bulbs we intend to grow in containers also are generally held in refrigeration until this time of the year when they are potted up for blooming in spring.

Most of the time we find the best results are obtained when these chilled tulip and hyacinth bulbs are planted into the garden in late December or early January. Bulbs planted earlier bloom earlier – as early as February – and the weather is so unsettled at that time that the flowers are more likely to be ruined by freezes and winter storms. Tulips and hyacinths planted over the next few weeks generally bloom in March and early April when the weather is more likely to be favorable.

Remember that tulips and hyacinths, like most spring bulbs, look better when planted in masses or groups rather than single rows. Also, plantings are more effective and dramatic when one or just a few colors are used. If several colors are used, they should be planted in small groups of individual colors within the larger planting. Of course, if you bought your bulbs packaged in mixed colors you don’t have any choice of the colors, and there will be no way to group individual colors. Next year, you might choose to purchase bulbs in single color packages.

Plant tulips and hyacinths in sunny to partly shaded areas that have good drainage. The bulbs should be planted into well-prepared beds that have been generously amended with organic matter and a light application of general-purpose fertilizer. We generally do not plant spring-flowering bulbs as deep as is recommended for areas farther north. Tulips and hyacinths are planted about 5 inches deep, spaced about 3 inches or 4 inches apart.

Once planted, you may plant over the bulbs with flowering cool-season bedding plants such as alyssum, lobelia or violas. Make sure the bulbs will grow taller than the bedding plants and that the colors of the bedding plants and bulbs will look good together when they are both in bloom.

Planting spring-flowering bulbs in containers is wonderful, and I always save some narcissus, anemones, ranunculus and freesias to plant along with tulips and hyacinths. When bulbs are grown in containers you can move them inside when they come into bloom. As delightful as they are in the landscape, spring bulbs are especially enjoyable indoors.

Any container with drainage holes may be used to grow spring bulbs. Plant the bulbs in well-drained potting soil so that they are close together but not touching. The tips of the bulbs should show just above the soil surface (or about an inch below the surface in the case of ranunculus and anemones).

There is a trick with tulips. Look carefully and you will see that one side of the bulb is flattened. Plant the bulbs so that the flat side faces the outside edge of the pot. The first leaf each bulb sends up will then face the outside – creating a more attractive presentation.

Place the container outside where it is cool. Move the pot to a sunny location when the growth from the bulbs is about an inch tall. Bring the container in on nights only when temperatures are predicted to reach the mid-20s or below, and return the pot back outside when the severe cold is over. When the flower buds begin to show color, bring the pots inside for display. The flowers will last longer if they are kept cool, so if you keep your house warm, move the pot to a cool room or outside at night if you can.

Hyacinths are one of the easiest bulbs to get to bloom in containers and can even be grown in shallow containers without drainage holes – if those containers are filled with pebbles or stone chips. Plant the bulbs close together but not touching so that about half the bulb is covered by the pebbles, and add enough water to reach the bottom of the bulbs. Add water regularly to keep it at that level. Grow them as recommended above. Bulbs also may be grown just in water in special hyacinth vases shaped like hourglasses.

If you neglect to plant your bulbs for bloom this spring, you cannot hold them until December of next year. So, as the hectic pace of the holidays slows, take some time to plant your bulbs.

Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.

Contact: Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or [email protected]
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or [email protected]

Tulips Benefit From a Big Chill

Question: My grandmother used to grow tulips in her garden in Virginia. I really like them and want to grow them in my garden, but I’ve heard that it doesn’t get cold enough in Southern California. Is that true?

B.L., Brea

Answer: The answer to your question is two-fold. It is true that it doesn’t get cold enough here for tulips to naturalize and come back year after year as they did in your grandmother’s garden.

It is still possible, though, to grow tulips in our mild climate.

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The secret is to pre-chill them in your refrigerator before planting and treat them as an “annual bulb.” Chilling tulip bulbs in the refrigerator mimics the cold nights found in cooler areas, such as Holland, where tulips grow in abundance.

Cooling tulip bulbs is important. Without chilling, the resulting flowers will be short and small.

Because of our mild winters, tulips rarely come back for more than a year or two. Though some gardeners try digging the bulbs up and re-chilling them, experts report that this generally doesn’t work very well.

For the best show, they suggest buying and chilling new bulbs each fall.

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Now is a good time to begin buying tulip bulbs, which should be appearing in nurseries. Though they will be available over the next two or three months, buying now assures that you get the best selection.

Look for bulbs that are large and firm.

Tulips bloom each spring anywhere from March through May, depending on the variety. Because the tulip bloom is notoriously short-lived, it’s a good idea to try planting early, mid-season and late varieties for the longest possible season of color. Staggering planting times of the same variety of tulips usually won’t give you a longer display, as each variety is bred to bloom at a specific time, despite when it’s planted.

Here are some tips for chilling and planting your tulip bulbs.

* To chill tulip bulbs, place them in a paper or plastic bag punched with holes and store them in the refrigerator for six weeks or more. Don’t place bulbs near apples because they give off ethylene gas, which causes bulbs to rot.

* The bulbs can be planted from November through early January. Just make sure to keep them in the refrigerator until you plant them, because once removed from the cold they tend to mold and weaken.

* Provide excellent drainage. Tulips will rot in soggy soil. It is important to generously amend your soil with homemade or bagged compost and perlite or pumice before planting. If your soil is heavy clay, gypsum is also suggested.

* Use a high-quality potting soil that has a lot of perlite or pumice, or add some to lighten the soil. Tulips do especially well in containers, where they tend to make a stunning display.

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* Plant tulip bulbs in the ground about 5 to 6 inches deep and 5 inches apart with the pointy end facing up.

It’s possible to plant many tulips in containers. In pots they can be planted so they are touching each other and are an inch deep. Plant bulbs against the outside of the pot and move inward in a circular fashion until you hit the center.

Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners are here to help. These trained and certified horticultural volunteers are dedicated to extending research-based, scientifically accurate information to the public about home horticulture and pest management. They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at (714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to [email protected] Calls and e-mail are picked up daily and are generally returned within three days.

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