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The Plant Doctor: Winter bulbs just right for forgetting snowfalls

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The flowers of spring- tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths planted in the fall - await the warmer weather to display their harvest of color and fragrance. But, why wait for the spring ? Wintering spring bulbs at this time of the year will produce foliage and flowers long before the snow melts.

There are several techniques, depending on the type of bulb you are using, and the climate in your area. In cold winter areas, fall and winter temperatures are ideal for bulbs to bloom indoors.

Plant narcissus, hyacinth, crocus or tulip bulbs in six- inch pots containing a commercial potting mix. Cover the bulbs so that the tip of the bulb is about one inch below the surface. When spacing the bulbs be sure not to permit them to touch each other, or the side of the pot. You may wish to mix large bulbs such as tulips and smaller bulbs such as crocus. The crocus bulbs should be planted in between the larger bulbs.

After planting, water the pots regularly and keep them in an area that remains relatively cold - let's say about 40 degrees F. If you plan to keep them out of doors, be cautious. If the temperature drops below freezing, the frost will kill the bulbs. Under these conditions, move the bulbs indoors, perhaps inside a garage.

Depending on the type of bulb, you should notice growth in 8 to 12 weeks. When the tip of the sprouting bulb is about two inches high, move the plant into a lighted area - but not in direct sun. After one week, gradually acclimate the plant to brighter sunlight. When the plants are in full bloom, move them from direct light.

Too much trouble? Not to worry. A popular technique, one that involves forcing bulbs to bloom, will also give you a beautiful floral display. The only drawback is that forcing bulbs places extreme stress on the plants, so it is unlikely that they will flower again.

One of the more popular bulbs for this is the paperwhite narcissus. Two planting techniques are suggested to the home gardener: Either place them in soil just below the bulb's tip. Or, grow them in pebbles.

If you use the pebble technique, keep 2/3 of the bulb exposed. Fill the bottom of the container with water. Place the bulbs in a relatively cool, dark area. Roots will develop in about two weeks. Move the plants into a brighter location. Blooms will be produced within four or five weeks. A variety of paperwhite bulbs are available - mix and match for an exquisite presentation.

Freesias, known for their remarkable fragrance and color, are an exceptional choice. These plants do best in a potted condition where the soil just about covers their tips. Water thoroughly and keep the plants in a dark, cool area, 50 to 60 degrees. After two weeks, place the plants in a somewhat warmer location, 65 to 70 degrees, with bright light, but not direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist and fertilize every two weeks. The blooms appear in about 10 weeks and flowers will last over six weeks .

Questions or comments on gardening and plant care should be addressed to : The Plant Doctor. c/o Queens Publishing Corp. 41-02 Bell Blvd., Bayside, N.Y. 11361 or e-mail at harvey.goodman@worldnet.att.net

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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