The Q&A Archives: Forcing Bulbs For Outdoor Spring Planting?

Question: I purchased some bulbs in the fall (Germanica Gay Parasol and Superstition irises, Carnegie hyacinths, and allium giganteum) and forgot to plant them! Now that the ground is frozen hard and snow covered, is it too late to have them blooming outside for the spring? I have read a lot of information on forcing bulbs to bllom inside, but what I really want to do is have them bllom outside. Is this possible?

I thought that maybe I could plant them in jiffy pots and place them in the refrigerator for several months, then place the pots directly into the ground when it thaws out. Would this work? Any inforamtion is greatly appreciated!

Answer: I suppose you could try, if the bulbs are still firm and in good condition. You would need to bury the alliums and hyacinths in several inches of soil and chill them while they root and prepare to flower. Either a refrigerator (do not store them with fruit) or possibly an unheated garage would do.

Hyacinths are easy to force so I would expect it to work fairly well for them, allowing about ten weeks. You could even allow these to bloom indoors and then plant them in the garden, assuming you can keep their foliage growing healthily until you can put them outside.

Alliums on the other hand are not usually sugggested for forcing, possibly because they are normally later blooming bulbs, but it's still worth a try since the alternative is to throw them out!

The iris, however, are not bulbs and do not require that chilling. They are rhizomes of perennial plants. You could try continuing to hold them until you can plant them outside in early spring, or you could plant them in pots which you would then keep very cool and bright (but above freezing) until you can plant outdoors. If you plant them, set them horizontally at the soil surface and cover them by no more than halfway.

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