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Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Sunlight, moisture help bulbs stay alive

March 30, 2003

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Many gardeners can't bear to discard bulbs after they have been forced to blossom in winter. That is the usual recommendation for what to do with these plants because they cannot be forced to bloom again.

Spring-flowering bulbs are so easy to bring into flower their first time because their flower buds are formed the season before the flowers open. A first-rate flower comes from a first-rate bulb, the product of a first-rate nursery giving the plant first-rate growing conditions the previous year.

Abundant sunlight, along with sufficient moisture and food, are what constitute first-rate growing conditions for these bulbs. They also enjoy cool temperatures to keep the leaves growing for a longer time.

The problem with carrying over bulbs to force again into midwinter bloom is that you really cannot provide first-rate growing conditions now. The light streaming into a sunny, south window is paltry compared with that falling directly -- and for longer hours -- on a plant growing out in the garden in late spring. And the warmth of a sunny indoor room speeds aging of the leaves, so that they have less time to gather sunlight.

Still, there is an alternative, and that is to plant the bulbs out in the garden to bloom in their natural season. For now, put the plants in your sunniest window in your coolest room. An out-of-the-way location is fine because the plants are not a pretty sight once their flowers have faded. Just don't neglect them.

In spring, when warm weather reliably settles in, all these potted bulbs can be planted at permanent locations outdoors. Then, the plants may or may not still have leaves -- it does not matter.

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