Fill Your Home With Easter Color – Spring is Here!
In the glorious world of gardening, the arrival of Easter means that Spring is right around the corner!
Spring means colorful flowers in pots and gift baskets bursting with new life! Many spring flowers you buy at the garden centre at Easter have been potted previously and forced into bloom for the Easter holiday. Bulbs used for early spring forcing include tulips, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinth. They make great gifts and are a welcome addition to our Easter celebrations. Most of the spring flowering “bulbs” and gift plants need a period of chilling for many weeks to induce them to bloom in early spring.
This process is called forcing and simulates winter. Forcing means to create the conditions where the bulbs grow when they naturally would not. Chilling is usually anywhere from 0 C to plus 10 C and the planted pots are kept moist. People often ask what would happen if the bulbs/plants did not go through the chilling period. The bulbs would produce poor quality flowers or not grow at all.
Forcing is very stressful for the bulbs and while some of them may be planted outside after flowering, they cannot be forced again. If you do plant your forced bulbs out after blooming, they may not put out new growth until the second spring after planting.
Here's our TOP 5 Favorite Easter Flowering Plants:
Primula – (Primula x polyantha)
The first sign of spring in a garden centre is the arrival of primula. They are exceptionally colorful, low- growing early spring bloomers. Primula produce a profusion of bright colorful flowers and most have a subtle fragrance. Yellow primula have the strongest fragrance.
Primula are especially impressive if grouped together in gift baskets and topped off with moss to hide the pots. At home, keep your primula in a cool location with bright light but no direct sun. They can also tolerate part- shade locations as well.
The soil should be kept moist but not soggy. Water from the bottom and do not forget to dump out the excess drainage water. Prune off dead flowers by pinching the flower stem off at the base of the stem. This will encourage new buds to form. Do not fertilize during the blooming period.
Primula are often treated as gift plants and tossed after they have finished flowering. If you would like to try experimenting and growing them on, plant them outside in a shade to semi-shade location and mulch heavily before winter.
Tulip – (Tulipa)
Tulips come in too many varieties and colors to list. They are all beautiful and are a symbol of love, belief, and forgiveness. Forced tulips have been chilled at 2-7 degrees C for 12-16 weeks.
Choose potted tulips when in tight bud, just budding or showing signs of the flower stems coming up. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. They like a bright room, but no direct sun. Tulips have a habit of ‘leaning’ toward the light. This is called phototropism. Remedy the lean by turning your tulip daily.
Forced tulips are not likely to bloom again next year but as I see it, what have you got to lose by trying? If you do want to attempt to save forced bulbs after flowering, cut back the dead flower stems and place the pot in a sunny window. Reduce watering as the leaves yellow, wither and die. Take the bulbs out of the pot, clean off the soil and leave them out to dry for one to two weeks. Store the bulbs in a dark, cool, and dry location until fall planting.
Tulips are toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. This is especially true of the bulb, but the leaves and flowers can also cause illness.
Hyacinth – (Hyacinthus)
Hyacinth bulbs come in purple, red, white, pink and blue and are highly fragrant. They are a symbol of sincerity and constancy.
Hyacinths have been chilled at 2-7 degrees C for 13 weeks. The soil is kept moist during this cooling period and should be kept as such when you have them in your home. As with most forced spring bulbs, hyacinths tend to emerge and flower quickly. For best results, if possible, keep them at 16-18 C in your home. Do not put the plant in direct sunlight and do not fertilize.
Wear gloves when handling hyacinths as they contain oxalic acid which causes an itchy skin reaction.
As far as I know hyacinths will not winter over outside in Saskatchewan. Please let me know if you have had success with keeping them over!
Hyacinths are toxic to cats, dogs, horses and humans – especially the bulbs.
Daffodils – (Narcissus)
Daffodils are a very popular spring flowering bulb. They are a true bulb and come in yellow, cream, oranges, white and a combination of all the above. They are especially popular with gardeners because mice, squirrels and deer tend to leave them alone.
Daffodils symbolize the arrival of new life.
Forced Daffodils have been chilled for 12-15 weeks at 4-7 degrees C.
When purchasing daffodils that have been forced, they are usually a miniature variety called Tete a Tete that come up very quickly when brought into a warm environment. Try to buy them when the leaves are just emerging for best longevity of bloom. As with the other bulbs, keep the soil moist and, if possible, display them in a cool room with bright light.
Daffodils are worth trying to regrow outside the following season. They are a Zone 3-9 bulb so do well in our 3b zone. They prefer a neutral to acidic, well draining soil and do well in a sun or part-sun location. Forced daffodils can be saved and planted outdoors.
Leave the bulbs in the soil after flowering. Move the pot to a sunny window and continue to water once or twice a week. When the leaves die back, stop watering, and let the soil dry out completely. Keep in a cool, dark location such as a garage in summer and plant in fall.
An extra note about daffodils!
When purchasing daffodil bouquets in the spring, do not put them in a vase with other types of flowers. The cut stems ooze a toxic chemical called lycorine which will kill the other flowers. Always wear gloves when handling cut daffodils.
All parts of a daffodil are toxic to humans, cats, dogs and horses. Animals have been known to fall ill if they have been drinking the water from a vase of daffodils.
Many people who buy forced daffodils are often disappointed when their daffs appear to go crazy and grow extremely tall and floppy. Adding a little isopropyl alcohol to the water can stunt the stem elongation without harming the bulbs or flowers. Mix one part rubbing alcohol with ten parts water. Begin watering with this mixture as soon as the leaves emerge from the pot.
Crocus – (Crocus sativus)
Crocus ‘bulbs’ are actually called corms. They emerge and flower in early spring; sometimes before the snow has melted! They come in a myriad of colors and have narrow, grass-like foliage. I have successfully grown them in my lawn, and they have died back well before we had to mow the lawn.
Forced crocus have been chilled for 12-15 weeks at 2-9 degrees C. The soil has been kept moist during this rooting period.
Crocuses are best purchased when just showing the first signs of leaf emergence. To increase longevity of bloom, keep the pot(s) in bright light in a very cool room. When the buds start to color, move them into a warmer room. Place in indirect light and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Overwatering causes the corms to rot. Crocus do not require fertilizer while blooming.
After flowering, place the pots in a sunny window. Continue watering until the leaves wither and die back. Remove the dead leaves and let the soil dry out completely. Store the pots in a cool garage or cool room in your basement until you can plant them outside in the fall.