Forcing Tulips


Q. Help! I never got around to planting my tulip bulbs this fall. Is there anything I can do to save them?

A. If the bulbs are still firm and show no signs of decay or rot, you can pot them up for indoor forcing. Choose a wide, shallow pot with good drainage and use either a commercial potting mix or a soilless mix of one part peat moss, one part vermiculite, and one part perlite. Place the bulbs close together with just their tips exposed at the soil line. Position the tulip bulbs with their flat sides against the edge of the pot, since the largest leaf will originate from this side and will hang decoratively over the edge of the container. Water well and store your pot for 13 to 14 weeks in a refrigerator (cover the pot with a plastic bag), a cold frame, a window well, or an unheated garage. In the latter cases, mulch well with 6 to 8 inches of straw, leaves, or plastic foam pellets, as it is important that the bulbs stay cold and dormant but don’t freeze.

During this storage time, check the moisture in the soil and water lightly if the soil has dried out. When pale green shoots emerge, move the pot to a cool (55- to 65-degree Fahrenheit) room with good sunlight. When the flower buds begin to color, move the pot to a location out of the sun.