Crocus, daffodils and forsythia are a sure sign that spring is close but in some winters these signs take way too long to arrive. Forcing some spring bulbs into bloom in late winter is a great way to keep those green thumbs working and distract you from the damp, dreary late winter weather.
To force bulbs you need to start planning a few months ahead – in fact you should be thinking about what to force in fall. Start with a target date that you want the flowers to be in bloom. This maybe someone’s birthday or for an Easter table. Count back for the number days the plant is going to need to grow and put out the bloom and add a few weeks for chilling the bulbs. Although smaller bulbs require slightly less chilling time that larger bulbs, it is better to add a week or two and get the blooms you want. Without the chilling time the bulbs will be weak and produce a few leaves, but very few flowers.
In general allow about 15 weeks for chilling, and about 6 weeks for growth. So if you want a March first bloom, then your target starting date is October. Purchase fresh bulbs, or dig a few of your favorite from the garden, and inspect them for soft spots. Remove any offsets that are on the bulb and plant those in the garden.
Plant your bulbs in a clean container half filled with good potting mix that is moist. Place your bulbs on this surface and cover with more moist potting mix. Place the whole container into the lower part of the refrigerator. Consider placing the container, if it is small, into a plastic bag so that it is protected from spilling and disturbance. A beer or soda fridge in the garage is perfect for this. The ideal temperature is about 45 degrees or lower. In the northern states this can be achieved outdoors by placing the container out of the sun or in a corner on your deck or patio for the required number of weeks, even if the container gets covered with snow it will be chilled.
In January your container should be well chilled and ready to come back to life. Bring the container into the home and let it warm up. As the container is not pretty at this stage, a bathroom or unused bedroom is a good place until growth starts. When the bulbs have broken the surface, place the container in a sunny window and watch the daffodils grow while the snow flies outdoors. If your timing is right, you will have bright spring blooms when you need them most!