Time to Buy Hyacinth Bulbs for Forcing

To have this breath of spring in the dead of winter, you need to buy the bulbs as soon as you see them in the store.

To have this breath of spring in the dead of winter, you need to buy the bulbs as soon as you see them in the store.

The garden centers and home improvement stores all have bags of hyacinth bulbs and other bulbs that can be forced, but if you want a windowsill full of spring flowers next February, you need to get started immediately.

I am dreaming over seed catalogues but the days are already getting longer and I’m hungry for a touch of spring.  Last fall I bought a bag of assorted hyacinth bulbs at Home Depot (the largest I could find) and placed them in the vegetable crisper drawer of my refrigerator where they could rest in the cold and dark, a false winter for them.  The bulbs need a minimum of eight weeks before they can be forced successfully.  I’ve checked them frequently to be sure they haven’t begun to get moldy.  It’s now time to take them out and begin the process of forcing them into early bloom.  I’ve collected quite an assortment of Victorian Era hyacinth vases at flea markets over the years but similar vases are available, thanks to Martha Stewart who created a market for them when she featured them on her TV show some years back.  I always feel pleasure when I get the vases out and match each one with a bulb that will set off each vase’s jewel-like color.    I choose a white bulb for the first vase, a blue-green beauty I found at the flea market in Brimfield, Mass.  I place the bulb in the top of the vase, pointy side up, root disk down.  It’s important that air be able to circulate around the bulb or it might rot so I put a couple of toothpicks around the bulb to lift it away from the glass on one side so it can breathe.

This bulb has developed a good root system during its time in the refrigerator.

This bulb has developed a good root system during its time in the refrigerator.

I then fill it with water until the water level comes to just below the bottom of the bulb.  If the water covers the root disk, the bulb may rot.  Finally, I put the vase in a cool dark place so it can develop a good root system.  The root system is sufficient when it comes at least halfway down the vase and a little nub of growth appears at the top.  This will take a couple of weeks before  it will be ready to come to the windowsill and into the light which will cause the flower stalk and leaves to appear.   I keep them out of direct sun as this makes the plant become leggy.  Check them frequently.  You may need to add water from time to time.  If the water gets cloudy, change it and rinse off the bulb.  You can take it out and rise it off, just take care not to break off any of the roots when you put it back.  I use to put a few chips of activated charcoal in the bottom of the vase to help keep the water pure but I’ve found that it isn’t really necessary.  You might try it, if you seem to get frequent moldy bulbs.

After Several Weeks in the Refrigerator, They Have Developed a Healthy Root System

These are now ready to come to a cool (such as east) windowsill.

When your bulbs have finished blooming, they can be planted into your garden.  This is done when the daffodils bloom.  They may not bloom next year as forcing them takes some extra energy away, but you will be rewarded the year after and for many years to come.

These may look a little ratty right now, but they will bring us pleasure for years to come.

These may look a little ratty right now, but they will bring us pleasure for years to come.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    I want to try this.

    Like

  2. 2

    Carla said,

    Beautiful!!

    Carla

    Like


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