Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
January, 2010
Regional Report

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Let pots of glorious tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other spring bulbs brighten your days this winter.

Bring Spring Home Early

The clusters of snowdrops by my doorsteps always brighten the days of January and February for me, to say nothing of reminding me that spring really isn't that far away. But if you don't have the opportunity to enjoy snowdrops firsthand, then you certainly should turn to the next best option, bulb flowers in pots, readily available now at stores.

These winter wonders are largely spring bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, that have been brought into flower early by nursery growers using an age-old process called forcing. Forced bulbs might more accurately be called fooled bulbs, as the growers use a combination of cooling and light treatments to trick the bulbs into flowering early.

The happy results of this deceptive behavior are stocks of colorful flowers ready to be scooped up and taken home to bright winter days. Normally sold in modest plastic pots, forced bulbs lend themselves to a variety of creative decorating ideas. At home, they can be featured "as is" or repotted into new containers. Another option is double-potting, in which the plastic pot is slipped inside a second, slightly larger and prettier pot. This second container is called a cachepot, from the French work for hidden pot.

No matter how you choose to display forced bulb flowers, following some simple tips will heighten your enjoyment of these colorful, mid-winter bloomers.

Buy Green and Watch Them Grow
For longest enjoyment, choose potted plants with tight buds or barely open flowers, not those already in full bloom. In these plants, the flower is fully formed and ready to burst forth for your enjoyment at home. In winter, it's just as much fun to watch the green plants grow as it is to watch the wonderful flowers bloom!

For best success, keep them evenly watered, letting the top of the soil dry out slightly before watering thoroughly. Let them stand in the water that runs out the bottom of the pot for 30 minutes, then pour off any remaining water. Place the pots of green, growing bulbs in bright light but not direct sunlight. Also, avoid drafty spots or next to sources of heat. Once the flowers have faded, keep the watering, adding a water-soluble fertilizer. When the foliage has died, remove the bulbs from the soil and plant them outdoors next fall. They probably will not bloom the following year, but should bloom the next year.

Dress Bulbs Down or Up
Potted bulbs are great displayed casually in their plastic nursery pots or wrapped in decorative foil. Or, they can easily go upscale dolled up in myriad ways by using more decorative containers, repotting or using the double pot, or cachepot, technique.

To repot, select a container that has a drainage hole at the bottom. Transplant the bulbs by gently removing the plants, soil and all, from their nursery pot. Then simply replant into the new pot. Just be sure to remember to place a plate or saucer below the pot to protect table tops from moisture when watering. Consider creating a dramatic display by bringing home several inexpensive pots of flowers to combine by repotting into one larger container. Combining pots is a fun, easy way to creatively "garden" indoors in the middle of winter.

To double pot with a cachepot, select a decorative container that's large enough to hold the existing plant, pot and all. In this case, the inner nursery pot provide drainage, the outer pot is for show. You can even use this technique in porous containers, such as baskets, just as long as you add a plastic tray at the bottom to catch water. Again, an especially dramatic display can be created by combining a number of cachepots.

So don't let these wintry days get your down. Enjoy the opportunity of having living growing plants with beautiful flowers as a treat for yourself and others.

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