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Forcing Tulips: Midwinter Beauty

It’s too late in the season to plant bulbs into the garden, but it’s not too late to be forcing tulips into midwinter blooms. Tulips blooming on a windowsill against a gray winter day in February offers the promise of spring and is guaranteed to warm hearts.

It’s too late in the season to plant bulbs into the garden, but it’s not too late to be forcing tulips into midwinter blooms. Tulips blooming on a windowsill against a gray winter day in February offers the promise of spring and is guaranteed to warm hearts.

Tulip Couleur Cardinal

Tulip Couleur Cardinal

 

When we force tulip bulbs, we provide the same conditions that brings them into bloom, only at a time when tulips normally wouldn’t flower. Tulip bulbs can be forced from late September for Christmas blooms, right through early December for midwinter blooms.

Selecting a suitable variety of tulip is one of the keys to success.

Shorter stemmed, early blooming varieties yield good results such as Single Early Tulips. Triumphs are considered to be among the best bulbs for forcing tulips. When shopping select large, blemish free and firm bulbs.

Find a sturdy pot or container with drainage holes. Almost any container can be used as long as there are drainage holes in the bottom. Choose deeper pots for taller varieties, and wider, shallow pots for shorter varieties.

Fill the pot loosely with moistened potting soil mix. Tulip bulbs have stored all the energy they need to flower, so there is no need to worry about fertilizing the soil.

Tamp down the soil lightly, then press the bulbs into the soil. Tulip bulbs have a flat side where the largest leaf emerges and grows. Placing this side of the bulb towards the inside rim of the pot will create a more appealing look when the tulips come into bloom. Place the bulbs so that they almost, but don’t quite touch one another. About six bulbs fills a standard 15 cm (6”) pot. The tips or “noses” of the bulbs should be about 2.5 cm (1”) below the rim of the pot.

Fill in and around the bulbs with moist soil; the soil should just cover the noses of the tulip bulbs.

Tulip Calgary

Tulip Calgary

Water the soil from below to encourage rooting. Set pots in a tray of water and let them soak for several minutes, until the soil surface feels moist to the touch. Remove the pots from the tray and let excess water drain away.

Tulip bulbs need a cooling period of 13-15 weeks in a cold room at 4 – 9°C (38-48°F) to mimic winter. A darkened room is ideal, though it’s not absolutely necessary. An unheated garage, attic, or basement can be a good place, but avoid storing pots next to ripening fruit which will sterilize the bulbs. You can place pots in a cold frame, but cover the pots with leaf mulch and don’t allow them to freeze. If you have an apartment balcony and your winter weather is mild and wet, set pots outside covering them with a larger bucket tipped on an angle for protection. Some gardeners who are passionate about forcing tulips use a spare refrigerator that keeps temperatures consistently.

Check the pots often to make sure the soil isn’t drying out; it always should be moist and cool to the touch. You may need to lightly water the pots at frequent intervals.

After 13-15 weeks of cooling you should see sprouting leaves about 8-10 cm (3-4”) in height. Move the pots to a warmer location in the house in a bright spot. It won’t be long to see signs of growth and within 2-3 weeks beautiful tulips will come into full bloom. You can prolong the pleasure of their beauty by keeping them out of direct sunlight. Mist them with water now and again to prevent them from drying out.

Florissa has a great selection of Single Earlies and Triumphs that are suitable for forcing tulips. Your local garden centre can help you select the best cultivars.

Single Early Tulips

  • Candy Prince
  • Couleur Cardinal
  • Princess Irene
  • Pretty Princess
  • Purple Prince
  • Sunny Prince

Double Early Tulips

  • Abba
  • Monte Carlo

 

Triumph Tulips

  • Calgary
  • Strong Gold
Tulip Princess Irene Potted
Tulip Princess Irene

Single Early Tulips

  • Candy Prince
  • Couleur Cardinal
  • Princess Irene
  • Pretty Princess
  • Purple Prince
  • Sunny Prince

Double Early Tulips

  • Abba
  • Monte Carlo

Triumph Tulips

  • Calgary
  • Strong Gold
Tulip Princess Irene Potted
Tulip Princess Irene

Forcing Tulip Couleur Cardinal Pinerest

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