Forcing Tulips

In case you are not familiar with the term, “forcing tulips” means providing an artificial cooling period and warming period allowing them to grow indoors outside of the normal growing season. This means I can have cheerfully-coloured tulips blooming in February instead of waiting for them to bloom in May or June outdoors in our growing zone. It also eliminates the problem of squirrels digging up my bulbs as soon as I put my trowel away. I have had them sit in trees watching me plant them, waiting for me to leave! It also prevents deer from eating the flowers before they are even fully open. I have been enjoying forcing bulbs for thirty years now and have tried a few different locations for the cooling period. In an apartment, I found the furnace room to be cool enough because of the cold air entering there. I have used a bar fridge and a cold room as well. Most years, I have been able to grow them in the garage, with the help of an oil heater which keeps the temperature just above zero.

Last year I did not force any tulips as I wasn’t visiting gardening shops due to the pandemic, but I greatly missed their joyful presence in spring, so this year I ordered 6 types from Vesey’s. I chose Angelique, Flaming Prince, Columbus Double, Exotic Emperor, Peppermint Stick and Dream Touch. I have included the SKU numbers from Vesey’s in case you are interested in a particular variety. Angelique is a particular favourite of mine, but the others are new to me, as far as I can remember.

Along with new varieties, I am trying a variation of my usual process after I watched Claus Dalby explaining his method. I decided to try fully covering the bulbs with soil and watering more than I would have, as my pots are smaller this year and I wanted the tall flowers to have more stability at their full height. Normally, I would leave the tips of the bulbs visible above the soil.

In my experience, the key to successfully forcing bulbs is finding a spot that will allow them to stay between 4-7 degrees C for their cool period. We are in a different house again this year, but my husband will continue to keep the garage just above freezing, so this should work if I keep them against the house wall and off the ground. He gave me a shelf of precious garage storage to do this on, so I am “in business” as the saying goes. Once planted and watered, I cover with brown paper, a towel, or cardboard to reduce the light exposure, while leaving some air circulation.

I am trying out a different brand of potting soil as well, so lots of variables are changing at once, but I am excited to try new things this year.
Placing the “Peppermint Stick” bulbs in the pot.
This year I am not leaving the tips stick out of the soil, but covering them completely.

Labelled, watered and ready to loosely cover with cardboard on their shelf in the garage.

Below are links to a few previous posts showing examples of what I have grown in past years.

Do any of you enjoy forcing bulbs? Leave me a comment with your favourites!

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