March 20, 2019

Forcing Flowering Bulbs for Winter Blooms

Winter Blooming Bulbs

Winter Blooming Bulbs

Did you know you can grow your favorite flowering spring bulbs indoors?

In many parts of the country, frost is already on your windowpane and you dread that soon, your once flower laden view from the kitchen window is will appear just plain dreary?  At this time of the year you may be asking yourself “What it is a cooped-up gardener to do?  Well here is an idea.  Raise flowering bulbs inside!

Yes, the same types of bulbs you planted outdoors this fall.  The ones that won’t poke their heads up out of the ground until spring can be blooming in your house all winter.  Whether you like tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and even some unusual kinds of bulbs, they are sure to brighten your heart and your home.

“Forcing” bulbs to bloom inside flower pots in your house is quite simple and great fun!  They are sure to help you feel better as the bright colors and sweet scents they bring are guaranteed to cheer up anyone who has cabin fever.

Pots of blooming indoor bulbs also make great gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah or just to banish winter doldrums, right on up through Valentine’s Day (read on for details on a free flowering bulbs gift project).  As long as the rooms they are displayed in are not overheated, the early blooming bulbs will be gratifyingly long lasting.

Are you ready to give it a try?

Here’s what you’ll need:

Good quality bulbs.  Get them at your local garden center or order from a fall bulbs catalog or the online equivalent.  Either way, inspect each bulb carefully before planting, using only bulbs that are firm and crisp.  Return or discard ones that appear soft or are rotting.

Plant bulbs in a flower potFlower pots.  Different bulbs have different requirements, but generally speaking, a plastic pot or tray that is broad and several inches deep to accommodate their root systems, is fine.  A drainage hole is a must, so excess moisture can escape.  You may need two or more pots, depending upon your plans.

Growing medium.  Sterile potting mix is ideal, because it’s a light and welcoming and contains no organisms that could cause your bulbs to spoil.  One 2-quart bag should be enough for a few pots.  Special note: paper whites may be raised in pebbles or gravel.  Hyacinths and crocuses can be raised in mix, but also grow and bloom in nothing but a glass of water if the top half of the bulb is not the immersed.  Special fluted “ jars” are available, often wherever bulbs are sold.

Labels.  If you are potting more than one kind of bulb in different pots, it’s easy to mix them up before they bloom.  So be sure to write each type of bulb, as well as the date planted, on the label.  You can also use masking tape or a popsicle stick as markers, but mark each flower pot to avoid confusion.  This is especially helpful if you are staggering plants for blooms all winter.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1

Pot the bulbs.  Fill the pot almost full with the moistened potting mix.  Then,Pot the bulbs using your thumb, create a shallow hole for each bulb and plant it right side up.  Usually, the pointy end should face up.  If you’re not sure are, look for the beginnings of a roots in the bottoms or base of the bulbs, which are also often flatter than the tops.

Forced bulbs don’t need to be planted as deeply as outdoor bulbs, 1 or 2 inches deep is usually fine, make sure to leave a bit of the bulb’s tip showing.  Also, it’s OK to crowd bulbs in a pot, whether they the same kind or mix and match bulbs; just make sure they are not touching.  You can ring them around the perimeter and tuck a few in the middle for a full display or line them in a row for a long narrow container.  Now, while you are planting is when you’ll want to label each pot with the type of bulb and the planting date.

Step 2

Chill the plantings.  When outdoors, fall planted bulbs get a natural winter chilling.  For your indoor bulbs, you need to mimic these conditions in order to inspire them to start growing.  Place the pots in a dark cool (but not freezing) site.  Somewhere around 35° to 45° Fahrenheit for the first 12 to 20 weeks is perfect.  Consider sites such as on the steps going down to the basement, in an unheated sun porch, in your garage, or even in your refrigerator.  An outdoor cold frame is also an excellent choice.

Step 3

Check on them.  Once or twice a week is enough, check to make sure the growing medium has not dried out.  Give bulbs a light watering if they are dry.  It may take from 6 to 10 weeks for green growth to appear.  Watch for sprouts, as well as for white roots coming out of the pots bottom.

Transition sprouting bulbsStep 4

Transition.  When you see sprouts in the pot with growth of about an inch high, move the pot into a cool dimly lit room for a week or two.  This allows growth to continue to ramp up at a gradual rate.  Stems and flower buds should become evident.  Water as needed.

Step 5

Move into light.  At the end of the transition period, move your potted bulbs into a brighter room and they’ll bloom in 4 to 6 weeks.  Keep growing medium lightly moistened to fuel growth.  A slender stake can be used if the stems are tall or top heavy.

Step 6

Give Bulbs a Second Chance.  When blooming is over, you can either retire the spent exhausted bulbs to your compost pile if you have one.  Or, If you’d like to try saving them, allow the foliage to die back naturally (This transfers food reserves into the bulbs).  Then plant them outdoors, once the ground and weather have warmed.  You can expect the tired bulbs to take a year off while they recover, (the exception is hybrid tulips, once forced, they will not bloom again.)

This is so easy to do and you’ll be gratified all winter long with your indoor flower garden.

Enjoy!

P.S.  To receive the Paperwhites project mentioned above, sign up for our projects newsletter and receive new gardening projects weekly.


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How to Re-Bloom that Holiday Poinsettia Plant

PoinsettiaOh those beautiful red holiday plants.  I’m seeing them everywhere as the holidays approach.

Native to Mexico, the poinsettia originated in a region near the present-day city of Taxco. Joel Robert Poinsett, a Southern plantation owner and botanist, was appointed the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829). While visiting Taxco, he was struck by the beauty of the brilliant red plants he found blooming in the region during December. He had some of the plants sent to his plantation in Greenville, South Carolina, where they flourished in his greenhouse.  With over 70 million plants sold nationwide each year, the poinsettia is now the number one flowering potted plant sold in the USA.  While the botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, was given by a German taxonomist in 1833, the common name, poinsettia, became and has remained the accepted name in English-speaking countries,although no one seems to be able to agree on how to spell the plants name, poinsettia, poinsetta, pointsettia, pointsetta, and some just resign to referring to them as Christmas plants.  In any event, there is no doubt that the plant has almost become as synonymous to Christmas as the Christmas tree has.

Everyone seems to love the beauty and color they offer but who likes just throwing the plant in the garbage after the holidays?  If you don’t like watching your poinsettia plants die each year, try these steps to try re-blooming it.  It  takes some patience and commitment, but the reward is that your holiday plant will  bloom again next winter.

After the holidays:

Place the poinsettia in a very sunny indoor spot and keep soil just barely moist.  Fertilize as package recommends.

In March: Trim to six to eight inches tall after its leaves fall.  Continue to water and fertilize.

In May: When your poinsettia shows strong new growth, re-pot and bring outdoors.  Give plant 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.  Protect from harsh afternoon sun.  Fertilize weekly.

Mid-July: Trim 1/4 of the growing tips to encourage branching.  Leave at least 2 to 3 large leaves on each stem.  Continue watering and fertilizing.

Early autumn: Bring indoors when nights fall below 60° F.

October 1 to December 15: Place your poinsettia in complete darkness from 5:00 PM until 8:00 AM in temperatures around 65° F.  Any light dash even for a moment – will ruin your efforts.  Place in a sunny location during the day.

Mid-December: After plant starts to color, a long night is not as necessary, keep giving poinsettia 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight until completely colored.  Then stopped fertilizing and place the plant in its holiday location.  Your poinsettia may not be quite as plush or bright as those in the nurseries, but it will still be beautiful.

Note: There is a widespread misconception that these beautiful plants are poisonous and although every year I hear folks relaying this misinformation, it’s simply not true.

For more information on Poinsettias and how to select and care for them, visit the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

Merry Christmas!

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Thanksgiving and Fall Gardening

Thanksgiving1I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week!  Where has the year gone?

Carl Wilson, of Colorado State University’s Horticulture Cooperative extension, offers some good advice on end of season vegetable gardening.  Here’s my summary of his article.

In Charleston South Carolina, where a I live, gardening season hasn’t come to an end but it is certainly slowing down.  While gardeners in all other areas, have put away the gardening tools for the year, others are still thinking about putting their vegetable gardens to bed.  Still others, are planning to harvest through the end of November, and some others are planting winter crops right now.  It all depends on which part of the world you live in.

Mr. Wilson, writes “it all depends on what you like to eat”

If you grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and other warm season vegetables, the first hard frost means an ending for you.  In fact, tomatoes actually are best harvested and taken indoors to ripen once night- time temperatures drop to 40°Fahrenheit.

For gardeners who like cool season crops, life is just getting interesting.  Kale, planted in mid-summer is just coming into maturity.  Some believe the crops flavor improves after a few frosts.  Plants will continue to grow and produce leaves for harvest until at least this time of year.  The red Russian variety seems especially resistant to freezes.

Collards are another leafy green that seems to laugh at the cold.  They will survive temperatures down to 15° F.  Again, cold tends to improve the flavor.

Cabbage is best stored in the garden until there is room in the refrigerator or until severe winter temperatures threaten.  On heads grown almost to bursting, gardeners in the know twist plants ¼ turn to partially sever their root.  This will prevent further growth and allows for storage in the garden until you are ready to use it.

Root vegetables also will store for months in garden soil.  Once the soil has cooled, many gardeners will apply a dried grass or hey mulch to prevent carrots, beets, turnips and other underground vegetables from freezing solid.  Dig them up as needed for fresh vegetables up to the Christmas/ New Year holidays.

As for warm season vegetables, promptly harvest the debris struck down by frosts.  A thorough clearing of vegetation from the garden will help prevent the carryover of diseases into the next season.  Garden debris nicely complements dry tree leaves in the compost bin and will produce a welcome soil amendment by next spring.

Once garden space is cleared of warm season vegetables, consider one of two options to improve your garden soil for next year.  If your soil is heavy clay, turn  over all of the soil and leave a large clods on the surface.  Winter freezing and thawing will tend to break these down saving you work.

On both sandy and clay soils, Mr. Wilson recommends a second option.  “Seed a crop of winter rye”.  The seed will require several waterings to germinate and get going.  The plants will grow through the winter and attain a height of 12 to 15 inches by spring.  Their deep roots break up clay soil.  Turning under the Rye in early spring will add valuable organic matter to your garden.

Other crops to seed for winter are lettuce and spinach.  By using mulch or in old window supported around its sides by mountain soil, you can grow salad greens for the winter.  Both lettuce and spinach germinate at temperatures as low as 40° F.  Cast lettuce seed on top of the soil and keep moist.  The seed requires light to germinate.

Interested in dill for next year?  Many gardeners swear that seed is best started by broadcasting it over the soil in fall.  Germination often is more successful than spring seeding.

For some vegetable gardeners, the first frost is in ending.  For others it’s just a beginning.

As for me, I’ll be working through the winter getting my garden store ship-shape for the spring.  I’m in the process of adding lots of new categories, new manufacturers, and new products.

In the meantime, inspired by local nurseries, I’ve added a holiday shop to my store.  Check out the Holiday Shop page and the Gifts page for some inspiration on what to give the gardener this holiday season.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

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3 Excellent Bloomers for Fragrant Summer Nights

Balmy summer nights are the perfect time to linger near the garden and enjoy the intoxicating fragrance of flowers that release their scent after the sun goes down.  Here are three favorite annuals that release their fragrance at night:

Moonflower

Moonflower

Moonflower (lpomoea alba)  A relative of the morning glory, moonflower is grown as an annual in most climates.  For those who love the large blooms the Moonflower produces fragrant, white, 4-6 inch flowers that open after dark.  Grown as an annual in colder climates, this beauty grows year-round in warmer climates (Zones 8-11).  This night blooming vine is perfect for an arbor close to the entrance to your home.

Evening Scented Stock

Evening Scented Stock

Evening Scented Stock (Matthiola hybrids)  With pink, mauve, or purple 1 inch blooms, stock releases a strong, spicy scent at night.   This plants flowers have a very powerful fragrance!   A rather plain looking plant, what the Scented stock does not have in looks it makes up in fragrance that only happens at night. The perfect flower for a night blooming garden, you truly will be shocked at its strong fragrance.  I have this planted near entrances to my home and under bedroom windows.  Easy to grow from seed.  Grows 12-18 inches tall. Best in full/partial sun.

Flowering Tobacco

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.)  This fragrant plant’s scent is more intense at night.  Trumpet-shapped, tubular flowers open in the evening in shades of pink, red, green, or white.  This plant blooms repeatedly and grows 36 to 48 inches tall.  Perfect for much needed height to beds and borders, group it in cluster for more impact.  Sun to Partial Shade.  Warning: All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested.

 

 


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5 Amazing & Easy-to-Grow Vines

You can add color, texture, and height to your garden with fast-growing annual vines.  Use them as a natural privacy screen, a welcoming habitat for butterflies and bees, or protection against sun, wind, and unattractive views.  Here are five of my favorite varieties.

black Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata).  This is a fast growing vine!  Black-eyed Susan grows easily from seed.  You can expect this tropical twining vine to grow 5 -8 feet tall and have vibrant orange, yellow, or white flowers although other varieties are available.  This plant is good for a trailer in a hanging pot or a window box or as a climber on a trellis.  Plant in full sun.

Corkscrew Vine

Corkscrew Vine

Corkscrew Vine (Vigna caracalla)  Another tropical, this sweetly scented twining vine (also called a snail vine) produces silvery blooms with lavender-pink, coiled centers and curved outer petals that look like seashells.  Clusters of blooms grow 12 inches long; the vine grows 25 feet tall.

Cypress Vine

Cypress Vine

Cypress Vine (lpomoea quamoclit).  Another member of the Morning Glory family and a favorite of Hummingbirds and Butterflies alike  is the Cypress Vine.  This twining vine has lacy, fern-like foliage and grows to 20 feet tall.  It produces star shaped red, pink and white flowers.  Easy to grow from seed.  Full sun.

Cardinal Climber (lpomoea x multifida). Another easy to grow from seed vine, this vigorous twining vine grows 15-20 feet tall and some varieties will grow to 30 ft. tall making it an excellent choice for covering fences or walls. Cardinal Climber produces trumpet shaped, deep red flowers (hence it’s name) with white or yellow throats from summer to fall. Great for attracting Hummingbirds! A member of the morning glory family, this vine does well in full Sun.

Cardinal Climber

Cardinal Climber

Hyacinth Bean

Hyacinth Bean

Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus). My personal favorite. I love this plant! This striking vine is actually a perennial but is grown in colder climates as an annual. Widely grown in Southern Asia and Africa where the ripe seeds and the green pods are used for food, Hyacinth bean produces fragrant purple flowers, 4-6″ long, followed by velvety purple bean pods containing eatable peas (I’ve never eaten any). The stems are purple too as are the veins in the leaves. Grows to 20 feet tall and is beautiful on a trellis.

Happy Growing!

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Memories of Hanging Planters of Fuchsias

fuchsiaelizabeth1 I have so many great memories of playing hide & seek or some other childhood game with my cousins in my grandmother’s back yard.  Seeing the ever present, hanging baskets of fuchsias are a  big part of those memories.  Who knew a hanging plant could have so much of an effect on a child?  To me, they are one of the best things about this time of year. They are my personal favorites.  Early this month, I added two hanging wire baskets full of red and pink Fuchsias to my front porch and raised my eyes to the heavens thinking of my grandma.

I am not alone.  While reviewing materials in preparation for this post, I found that people spell fuchsia as many ways as the colors Fuchsias come in.  Fuschias, Fuchsia, Fusha, Fuchsias, Fushia, and Fuscia were all used to describe these beautiful plants.  No matter what you call them or how you spell it, Fuchsias are a favorite flower for many.  It’s one of the best selling plants in America!

Fuchsias are named for 16th-century botanist Leonard Fuchs.  The story goes that a British sailor saw the plant in it’s native South America and brought a small plant back to his wife in England.   When a nurseryman spotted the striking flower, he convinced the couple to let him purchase the plant and today they can be seen adorning the outdoor living spaces of many homes.

Native fuchsias found growing in South America are often large shrubs or small trees with rather inconspicuous flowers.  Modern hybrids, however, are anything but inconspicuous.  Hybridizers have developed these small flowers into gigantic single or double blooms that are up to 2 1/2 inches across.  Some are so heavy, the stems can barely support them.  Plant sizes vary across the country.  The smaller plants are generally used as hanging plants or planted in planter boxes while the largest ones can be trained as trees or shaped into hedges.

While these plants are hardy in a small portion of the U.S. (zones 8-10), they thrive as annuals almost everywhere else.  Pink, white, red, purple, and orange,  these flowers come in a variety of colors!

Fuchsias showy blooms attract admirers of all sizes and Hummingbirds especially love them.

Since fuchsias prefer mild weather, they usually don’t tolerate extreme heat, drought, or humidity, but some are more heat tolerant than others.  If you live in a hot climate like I do, ask your local nursery which cultivators work best in your area and plant them in a partially shaded area.

Trailing varieties are often displayed in hanging pots.  The upright varieties are used less often in colder climates but work equally well in container gardens as well as planting beds.

Fuchsias are fast vigorous growers and the have a big appetite.  Apply diluted liquid fertilizer to contain plants throughout the season to ensure strong growth and prolific blooms.  Be sure to water regularly, fuchsias are thirsty plants.  Once the plants are growing and thriving but before they are flowering, pinch the stems back to encourage fullness.  Pinching the stems back also forces the plant to produce side branches, which you can also pinch back.  Stop pinching 8-10 weeks before you want the plant to flower.

Yes, all this feeding, watering and pinching takes time, but it’s definitely worth it.  At bloom time, you’ll have a full well shaped plant that’s the pride and joy of your porch or patio.

For continuous blooms, remove the spent flowers regularly.  Don’t panic if the flowering stops during hot spells, as the flowering will resume as soon as it cools off a bit.

To produce extra plants, try taking tip cuttings.  Snip off the last two or three joints at the tip of a growing branch, dip the cut end into rooting compound and place it in a damp rooting medium.  you can also grow fuchsia from seed which is available through specialty seed catalogs.

Fuchsias can be overwintered in a cold dark basement, garden shed, or even your garage.  This way, you won’t have to buy new plants every year.  Prune lightly before storing and leave the in their containers, watering about once a month.  Cut back to live wood when you return the plants outdoors in spring.  Northern gardeners may want to jump start the plants indoors.  You can grow fuchsias as houseplants too!  Indoor planters need to be as large as the one it was in outside or even slightly larger.

Stop by our store and take a look at the beautiful hanging planters and other garden decorative items that we offer.  Shop around, come back often.  We love serving the people who love gardening as much as we do!

Happy Gardening!

P.S. For more information about Fuchsias, visit the American Fuchsia Society.  They are one of the oldest groups and they maintain a registry of all the new hybrids developed each year.  You can visit the American Fuchsia Society at www.americanfuchsiasociety.org

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