Blooming bulbs in winter
Bulbous plants produce some of the most beautiful and colorful flowers, but unfortunately the flowering of these plants is generally short and to enjoy the colors and scents of the bulbs buried in autumn, we will have to wait until spring. However, the most impatient people will be able to get beautiful flowers even in the middle of winter, following some simple tricks.
Some bulbous plants fear the cold and usually are not buried in the garden, but are grown in pots, in the apartment. The large bulbs of Hippeastrum (also called Amaryllis) or tropical daffodils should be kept in the apartment in winter, as frost will ruin them beyond repair; these bulbous plants bloom in spring or summer, but with a little attention we can make them flower in the period we prefer. The bulbs are buried leaving at least a quarter above the growing medium, using a rich, melted and very well drained compost. They are generally placed in single vases, but can also be placed in large bowls; the container is kept in a dry, cool and dark place until 4-5 weeks before the "programmed" flowering: at this point the pots are moved in a bright place, with temperatures above 15-18 ° C, and the soil is watered every 4-5 days, until the first sprouts are seen; at this point the container is placed in a not too bright place, until the spectacular flowers bloom. Afterwards the large fleshy trunk, which bears the large colored flowers, must be cut after the latter have faded, to avoid running out of the bulb leaving it to produce the seeds; then you can continue to water the leaves to grow them as green plants, or they are left to dry and the container is still placed in a dark, dry and cool place, to allow the bulb to go into vegetative rest until the next flowering.
At home you can also flower garden bulbs, such as daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, scilla, tulips, muscari ... Even in winter you can have many flowers without having to wait for spring. To obtain a winter bloom it is however necessary to force the bulbs.
How to force the bulbs
Spring bulbous plants are generally buried in autumn, as they don't fear winter cold; these plants begin to bloom at the end of winter, after the last late frosts. Even if kept in the apartment these plants will bloom after a cold period of 8-10 weeks: for this reason it is necessary to place the bulbs in a cold place to obtain the flowering. Generally the bulbs are forced by placing the container in which they have been buried in an unheated cellar, or under a porch or on a terrace, in a place where temperatures are below 7-8 ° C, but possibly not too low, to avoid that the bulbs, which in pots should be buried with the apex exposed to light, freeze. If desired, it is also advisable to place the bulbs, in a dark bag, in the refrigerator, where the temperature is constantly around 4 ° C. After the forcing period of a few weeks the containers with the bulbs are placed in the house, in a bright and heated environment, so that the plants behave as if it were spring: watering regularly the flowers will bloom in a couple of weeks. On the market it is easy to find bulbs already forced, especially with the arrival of the holidays, in order to have a cheerful and colorful flowering for Christmas. After the forced flowering the bulbs can be buried in the garden, or you can cut the leaves and dig up the bulbs: after letting them dry in a dark, dry and cool place you can force them the following year.
Force bulbs flowers in winter: Bulbs in water
On the market you can also find containers in which to place the bulbs with the lower half directly immersed in the water; in this case the bulbs should not be forced and they will bloom very quickly, even if they are unlikely to flower for two years in a row. The most used bulbs for this type of cultivation are hyacinths, which produce a fleshy stem covered by numerous bell-shaped flowers with an intense and persistent perfume, but amaryllis, tulips and daffodils are also indicated. To allow a complete development of the floral stem it is good to cover the upper part of the bulbs in water with an aluminum or opaque paper cone, to keep them in the dark for 1-2 weeks; the cone is removed when a large portion of the stem has been developed which will bear the flowers.