forgot to plant bulbs- now they're sprouting- what can I do?

dysphoreaJanuary 26, 2011


I realise this question has already been asked but I'm not completely clear on what to do. I've read a bit online but some of it is contradictory. I have quite a few hyacinth bulbs I forgot to plant last Fall. They're now starting to sprout. I live in Canada (Ontario- hour north of Toronto). So it's very cold here right now and the ground is completely frozen, and there's several feet of snow as well as ice. I have a big backyard, not in an apartment or anything, so I can plant them out there as soon as it gets warmer. But I'm not sure what to do in the meantime. I've read about putting them in the fridge, or just planting them in a pot. What would the best route be?

Thank you for any help :)

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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

I hope you didn't buy zillions!
Potting up is probably sensible at this point. 3-4 to a six inch pot.

The green leaf tips are showing? Let them be in partial light and keep them at around 7-10C. You have to keep them cool until the flower bud is completely clear of the bulb and the foliage.

No buds because the bulbs are small? Wait until the foliage is further along (say 4-6") before bringing into more light and warmth. Remember to turn the the container at least a quarter, at least once a week so the plants grow up straight, no flopping or yellowing.

Keep your potting mix just moist until flowering starts then - they can be in more heat - 16-18C, prefer a dry, airy atmosphere (don't spray), water two-three times a week depending on warmth and how quickly the plants are using water. And feed them with houseplant food weekly once the buds have formed. STOP while they're actually flowering.

After the flower is done - cut off the stem down to the bulb. Leave the leaves to finish naturally. You may be able to put outdoors by then but harden them off if the weather is not friendly. (Out for nice days and in for late frosts/snows)

When the foliage has died down, plant them out where you intended and mark the spot so you avoid having bulb kebabs or slices.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 8:57PM
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Thank you so much for the response vetivert!

So I'm a complete amateur and I'm not entirely sure what you mean by bud. The part of the flower? There's just a little bit of green poking out of the bulbs. Not even an inch. So I wait? I could take a picture if that'd help.

I'd jussst like the clarify- what sort of pot, will any one do? And I need potting soil, houseplant food, and that's all?

thanks for all the help :)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 3:00PM
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Dysphoria, do the bulbs have roots.
The reason why we plant spring flowering bulbs in the fall is because the soil temperature at that time is right for encouraging bulbs to acquire roots.
They do this at this time so they can go into winter with roots. Once a bulb has roots, it can take whatever winter throws at it. Its really a magical occurrence...the bulb acquires a steel cage around the tissue and protects it from freezing temperatures. Without roots, it is at the mercy of the environment and without roots once the soil temperature rises to 50 plus F...10 Celsius...the bulb will start to rot. It has to...its like anything else that is put into the ground --it deteriorates..because it doesn't have roots.
Sad facts....but that's the truth....its why bulbs are bought and planted IN THE FALL.

Late spring and early summer bloomers might form some roots in the interim..planted late in the fall. But spring flowering bulbs are not supposed to be planted in freezing ground.
In the spring, dig up one or two, examin them....if they have roots, put them back into the ground and pray.
If not, they will no doubt be mushy and with that, throw them onto the compost pile where at least, they'll do some good.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 11:46AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Goren has given a very good explanation of the difference between a bulb with roots and one without. So many perfectly good bulbs rot every year form being planted in cold wet ground without roots. I am sure a lot of those who complain about being sold bad bulbs can trace their losses to this fact. Al

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 9:21AM
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The previous postings on what to do with forgotten bulbs that are now sprouting were very helpful. My question is a variation on that theme. I have some sprouting hyacinth and daffodil bulbs. I live in zone 5. It is warm here now, but the last freeze isn't until mid April. Can I plant the bulbs now?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 5:13PM
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I didn't forget to plant but just bought 2 bags of bulbs on sale from Home Depot. They are budding about .5". The weather here has been around freezing in the morning but warms to around 40-50 during the day. Should I plant or keep them in a planter in an unheated sunroom on the back of my house?

Thanking you in advance.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 7:45AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

mom of 2 labs, which kind of bulbs?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 5:58PM
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Aaargh! I just found a large bag of tulip bulbs in their bag in my unheated garage. I live in Zone 7a. The bulbs show approximately 1" of green. Temperatures are falling and predicted to be in the teens to single digits over night for the next 10 days. Could I plant the bulbs in containers outside with any chance for success? Thank respondents in advance.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2015 at 12:20PM
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Doncha just hate it when that happens?

But relax, have a big cup of tea and then go out and plant the bulbs.

Someone once advised me to not cover the green sprouting bits with soil or they would ... I can't remember, but it wasn't good. So I would suggest that it might be the same with tulip bulbs. So, whether you plant them in the ground or in pots, take care to allow the green shoots to sit above soil.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2015 at 10:04PM
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sound like my problem I usually forget to buy or plant any and every year I wish I had. Can I plant some now that it is Feb?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2015 at 10:55AM
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I am glad this thread was at the top again as I had forgotten where I had read goren's post, which I had found very interesting.

So amylwh, I don't want to alarm you, but it may be time to start screaming again. I may have lead you astray. If your ground is freezing [tete-a-tete's face starts to pale] it might be better to have the containers of bulbs inside.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2015 at 2:25PM
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And yes, I would still advise to plant forgotten bulbs as soon as they are remembered (discovered, accompanied by shrieks), because what other option is there? They cannot sit around and wait for the following fall as they will shrivel and die. So I suppose the only thing to do is to pot them up, leave any green parts poking out of the soil, and place them somewhere where the soil will not freeze. They need to experience a pretend fall/Autumn, if at all possible.

That is my amended answer.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2015 at 2:31PM
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beesneeds(zone 6)

Heh. I got this going on right now with grape hyacinths. A couple years ago I successfully overwintered them in a cool place, then potted them up early spring to "force" them for my wedding. But they bloomed too soon and went into the ground.

So this fall, I picked up some more to finish filling in the blocks- and totally forgot about them in a less kindly place that then got warmed up- and yep, sure enough I got some sprouting. So I potted them up, making sure the green bits were sticking out... and now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for when it's warm enough to put them into the ground!

I know for sure they saw some freezing, and I'm hoping they won't again. If they do ok, I'll report back in and let everyone know about it :)

1 Like    Bookmark   February 21, 2015 at 2:59PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

haha beesneeds, sounds like soething I do every year (forgetting a few bulbs here and there). I bet your grape hyacinths will be fine, as far as I know they don't need as long a cold period as other spring bulbs. Just watch the leaves, if the spot is warm enough they'll keep growing all winter so will do better with a little light.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2015 at 6:01AM
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Hi, as someone who has owned a garden center (15 years) this is a common question: plant them in a shallow pot with a sandy medium, enjoy them indoors and when the ground thaws, plant them where you would like them.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 6, 2015 at 10:37AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Over the years I have laughed reading about tulips that were forgotten till spring. This year it happened to me, but on a small scale. These were purchased at Costco in August last year, the earliest I had ever seen them offered. I threw the bags in my garden refrigerator until the middle of December when I planted in the garden as usual. The space was less than normal due to some campanula that were spreading nicely. Out of 100 I had about 15 with no room to plant so I just put them back in the refrigerator, and forgot about them. Thursday Mar. 5, I was surprised they were still there, somewhat dehydrated but still firm, so I potted them up, to be better able to control their environment. I will let you know the results of this experiment in neglect. Al

    Bookmark   March 7, 2015 at 5:52AM
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That will be interesting, Al. I look forward to reading about them.

I've got a number of tulip bulbs I can experiment with, now that I think about it. They are sitting around waiting until April, but there is no reason why I can't put some in a some interesting enviroment and see what happens.

Anyone want to suggest anything? I'll start thinking too.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2015 at 3:22PM
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beesneeds(zone 6)

Reporting back in about my grape hyacinths... I potted them up, and they seem to be doing just fine. The fact that they definitely got a good freeze on seems not to have hurt them. They aren't quite growing perky yet, but then, my solarium is only in the upper 40's/lower 50's right now.

The other day while I was out visiting my favorite local nursery, I was treated to a lovely breath of spring- a half barrel of daffodils in full bloom. Apparently they decided it was time, so the owner pulled the barrel out and put it on display. They had a heap of regular hyacinths potted up and about ready to pop into bloom too. And best of all, they had a bunch of bags of narcissus and daffodils from last year on sale for super cheap. I skipped the daffs since I already have a big bed of those, but picked up a half dozen different kinds of narcissus, all just starting to show green tips. They are now all potted up and sitting in my solarium too :) I know they never got frozen and will do ok.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 12, 2015 at 9:56AM
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Hah I was going to ask about forgotten builds and see this thread is active today I am in MN in zone 4 we had warm weather -way above normal - over the last 2 weeks Now no snow on ground and thawed to about 10 inches deep

I have a bag of anemone bulbs I did not get in the ground and a few alliums. I had then in a dark cold basement corner I pulled them out this weekend and see that the Alliums have about an inch of new growth and the anemones look like your basic hard bulb

I am afraid to plant the Alliums cause IT WILL Freeze again guaranteed

On the anemones I was thinking that since they can forced they might get work if I planted them

What should I do?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2015 at 3:38PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Fifteen days from planting tulips, in my refrigerator since last August, update.As you can see almost 100% are growing, some already budded. I doubt they will reach the height of those planted in the garden in December, but still worth the planting. Al

    Bookmark   on Sunday at 6:00AM
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