Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

“In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a home in the morning.” — Cynthia Rylant

Is your back tired from planting all your bulbs? Save a few hyacinth bulbs and refrigerate them for a splash of color in February. Bulbs purchased for fall planting will require a 12-week cold period and will flower 3-4 weeks after refrigeration. Be sure to isolate them from apples and other fruit that give off ethylene gas which may harm the bulbs.

During and after refrigeration, bulbs can be potted in potting soil or in special hourglass-shaped hyacinth jars or vases which allow the roots to develop in water while suspending the bulb above. Place in a warm spot, out of direct sun and your home will be filled with the sweet smell of spring.

Some other bulbs to try are crocus. They need 8-15 weeks of cold and will bloom 2-3 weeks after potting. Daffodils only need 3-4 weeks of chill time, but I do them longer. After potting, it takes 2-3 weeks for them to bloom. Grape hyacinth need 8-15 weeks of cold and will bloom in 2-3 weeks. Tulips need the longest chill time at 10-16 weeks and 2-3 weeks to bloom. When potting up the bulbs, be sure to use a pot deep enough to have a couple of inches of soil under the bulbs. Use enough bulbs per pot to fill the container. It’s OK to crowd them; cover them with soil just up to the neck. Once the bulbs shoot up, give them some warmth and gradually increase the warmth and light. After they are up, give them some sun and a warmer place.

Usually bulbs that have flowered indoors do not do well if planted outside. I plant them anyway. For daffodils, it’s taken a couple of years using bulb fertilizer, but they did bloom again.

I’ve also replanted Easter lilies; they usually die back and pop up again to rebloom in late summer. They do not overwinter well.

Another way to force bulbs is to pot them up and place the pot in a hole lined with straw in a garden area. When they have chilled the proper length of time, bring them indoors and watch them grow.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.