February 2018

Spring bulbs bring the season indoors

Hyacinth forced into bloom perfume the air. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Hyacinth forced into bloom perfume the air. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

As I sit and write this column, the fragrance of a white hyacinth vies for my attention.

Not far behind are blue and pink hyacinths just about ready to bloom. The hyacinths spent fall and winter in a paper bag on my enclosed, but unheated porch. Those several weeks on the chilly porch prepared the bulbs for forcing indoors.

Some garden centers may still have hyacinths, tulips or daffodils that have been pre-chilled and are ready for forcing. Or, you can buy pots of bulbs forced into bloom at garden centers, florists and grocery retailers.

These bulbs add a bit of seasonal beauty indoors at a time of the year when we are starved for natural color and fragrance. Pots of forced bulbs also make the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day.

For the longest period of enjoyment, keep forced bulbs in a cool, bright spot away from direct heat. Usually people toss the bulbs after they are done blooming, but many can be transplanted into the garden in spring. If you want to do that, keep the foliage attached to the bulb. The leaves replenish the bulbs nutrients and can be removed when transplanted after they turn yellow or brown, a process called ripening.

Cut tulips last about a week when kept in fresh water and in a cool locations. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

Cut tulips last about a week when kept in fresh water and in a cool location. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

If all of this seems like a lot of work, consider buying a bunch of tulips or daffodils at the florist or grocery store.

Select flowers that still are tight, but showing a bit of color. When you get the tulips, daffodils or hyacinths home, make a fresh cut on the stems and place in a clean vase with cool water.

Place the vase in a bright area away from direct heat and cold. Within a day or two, the flowers should open. They will last about a week to 10 days. Change the water every day or two. Do not use floral preservative mixes with bulbs.

Plant spring bulbs in containers

Pot up bulbs in containers now for enjoyment next spring. Photo courtesy

Pot up bulbs in containers now for enjoyment next spring. Photo courtesy

On Fox 59 Nov. 11, we answer a question the Hoosier Gardener gets every year,  usually in January:

“Oh, my gosh! I just found this bag of tulips (daffodils, hyacinths or any other spring bulb) that I didn’t get planted this fall. What can I do?”

Plant them right away! But how can you do that in January or February, when the ground is frozen? All is not lost!

When you find the bulbs, plant them in a large container, cover them with soil, water the pot and stow it in an unheated garage or porch until the tips of the bulbs break through, then move the container outdoors to a sunny spot. In spring or early summer after the bulbs bloom and the foliage has turned yellow or brown, called ripening, replant the bulbs in the landscape.

Layer the bulbs in the container, placing the largest ones, such as tulips and daffodils, 6- to 8-inches deep in the container. Add soil to cover all but the tips of the first layer of bulbs. Place smaller bulbs, such as hyacinths, crocus and Dutch iris in between the tips of the lower level of bulbs. Cover the second layer with soil and add more layers as needed.

You can also follow this method any time you want to plant spring bulbs up in containers.

Planting Bulbs in Containers

Hoosier Gardener on Fox59 Morning News – November 11, 2009. (Still photos courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center,

Here are more tips.

Spring in minor key

Grape hyacinth Muscari latifolium. Photo courtesy

Grape hyacinth Muscari latifolium. Photos courtesy unless otherwise noted.

Tulips and daffodils demand center stage in the spring bulb show, but minor bulbs hit all the right notes with their subtle beauty, depth of color and interest.

Certain bulbs fall in the minor category because they are tiny, short and usually adorned with smaller flowers.

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Spring is here!

Yellow crocus bloom in late winter. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp 


Yellow crocus (above) bloom in late winter. (Below) Iris reticulata. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


This warm weather is just what the spirit needs — that and the blooming yellow crocus — to know that spring is in the air.


Every year it’s a contest of sorts in the yard between the little Iris reticulata and the early blooming crocus (Crocus). This year, the crocus won.

I’m just grateful a sign of spring is here.iris-reticulata-hg