The Q&A Archives: Tulip Forcing

Question: Hi, I want to grow some tulips in-doors. I live in the Houston area, and every book I have read gives different advice. Will you please give me the basics and some simple instructions on how I can do this. Any information will be greatly appreciated!!

Answer: The easiest way is to purchase prechilled bulbs and follow the instructions on the package, but to do it yourself you will need to chill the tulips. They take between 14 and 17 weeks from planting to blooming so it's a bit late to start for this year, but anyway, plant them pointy end up and rather crowded in a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. The tips should be about level with the rim and when filled the soil should not quite cover the tips. Water and set them in a cool place. The temperature has to be consistently cool the entire time so you may well need to use a refrigerator. Give them six weeks at 42 to 48 degrees and then six weeks at 35 to 41 degrees. Make sure they do not dry out especially if it is a frost-free fridge. (Caution: do not use one where fruits and vegetables are stored as they give off ethylene and will cause the buds to abort. Also, the warmer set of temperatures may not keep food cold enough to be safe!) Once they are well rooted and roots are coming through the drainage hole, bring them into a sunny, warmer location (60 degrees in the day is about right) and you'll have blooms in a few weeks. Have fun with your project!

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