Gardening Tips: December 4, 2013

Leftover Bulbs
Just in case you forgot to finish planting all your spring flowering bulbs outside, this week you will learn how to “fool” Mother Nature into getting those bulbs to flower for you indoors. All spring flowering “bulbs” are not technically “bulbs”. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and onions are true bulbs containing an entire, complete plant within swollen storage leaves called scales. They also feature a papery sheath called a “tunic” and a hardened stem at the base called a basal plate.

Corms, such as crocus and gladiolas are modified stems with buds. They have no scales or leaves present but they do have dry bases similar to the papery sheath and a basal plate from which the roots emerge. Tubers are modified stems also without a tunic or basal plate. Tubers such as anemones, caladiums, gloxinias and white potatoes have a tough skin with buds. On potatoes the buds are called “eyes.” Rhizomes, such as Lily of the Valley, Canna and Calla lily are also stems that grow horizontally in the soil. Finally, tuberous roots such as winter aconite and Dahlia are true roots.
Spring flowering bulbs are generally planted outside in October but may succeed when planted as late as early December. Depending on where you live you may still have time to get the bulbs planted outside. For those of you who already have frozen soil or snow cover, your only recourse is to pot up the bulbs now for forcing.

They like it cool
Most bulbs require a cool period with temperatures near 50 degrees for a period of four or five weeks followed by a cold treatment with temperatures near freezing for another five to six weeks. The exceptions to this rule are Paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis bulbs. These bulbs require no chilling and will begin to grow as soon as they are potted up and watered. In the case of Paperwhites they do not even need soil to bloom. These bulbs may be set on pebbles or any other material that allows their roots to reach moisture.

Amaryllis bulbs may live for 50 years or more and should be potted in a container that is only slightly larger then the bulb itself. As they plants live and grow from year to year they are repotted every few years in slightly larger pots.