Keep forcing bulbs potted outside or in garage?

linnea56(z5 IL)November 29, 2008

I have some daffodils left to plant and am thinking about saving some for forcing. I read through the FAQs on forcing here. One thing I am not clear on is whether it would be better to place the potted bulbs outside or in my attached garage. The garage would obviously not get as cold as outside but still freezes. I have a sheltered corner on the east side where I could put a few pots and bring them into the house at the right time. I donÂt have a specific bloom time in mind, it just would be nice to have some blooms in late January or February.

I have both mixed daffodils and a named variety, a miniature called Jetfire. Are they supposed to be potted and cold for 12 weeks, and then brought inside? FWIW, these same daffodils have been in the garage well over a month, getting gradually colder all fall. Do I count any of that time? Can I pot both daffodils and crocus up together? Thanks!

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ladychroe(z6 NJ)

I wouldn't put them outside, unless you have a shaded cold frame or a compost pile to bury the pots in. The freeze-thaw cycles might reduce them to mush.

The garage is a better bet. I think that if you put the pots near the door leading to the house, the temperature would be more stable but still cold enough for them to get their chill on. If you're worried that the temps will be too cold at night or will fluctuate too much, place the pots in a picnic cooler to further regulate the temperature.

Yes, the chilling they have had in the last month does count. Crocus and daffodils will be fine in the same pot. Only thing is that crocus only need 4-8 weeks of chilling, whereas daffodils need 12-15 weeks (although I've seen a lot of varying information on chill times). They also may not bloom together. So you may want to put them in separate pots so you can bring out the crocus earlier and let the daffodils continue to chill as needed.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 10:37AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks for your reply. I will opt for the garage. IÂm glad the chilling time they had already counts, otherwise theyÂd be blooming inside at the same time as they will be out in the garden! How cold does the chilling have to be? They have been in the garage for at least 2 months, though probably only the last month would count as being cold. So (calculating hereÂ) if I assume the maximum time chilling as 15 weeks and subtract 4 for the time they have already had, I need to chill them for 11 weeks more.

Do I water them once I have planted them in the pots? Then at the end of 11 weeks bring them inside and start watering once I see leaves appear?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 8:38PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I am puzzled by the need of chilling on daffodils. They grow like weeds here in the ground year around with no chilling. Is it your intention to prevent the normal bloom cycle by keeping them chilled to just above freezing until you want them to bloom? Al

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 8:15AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

No I thought they had to be chilled (?). Here in zone 5, they have been dormant in the ground with no leaves visible since mid summer. Everything I read on the FAQs here on forcing mentioned chilling. I just want to have some blooming in the house in January.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 12:06PM
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ladychroe(z6 NJ)

Al, I have wondered about the the need for chilling of daffodils myself, since they have no problem blooming and perennializing in the semi-tropical parts of the country.

One year I partially chilled some Tetes at about 60 degrees for 8 weeks to see what would happen. 90% of the buds blasted. Perhaps, in 6" deep California soil, in "winter", the ground is cold enough for long enough to chill the bulbs? What you you think?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 5:19PM
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Maybe we are confusing "chilling" with vernalization. With very few exceptions, spring blooming bulbs need a specified period of cool temperatures after planting to develop flower buds. This is called vernalization and is usually accomplished by just planting the bulbs in the ground in fall - the colder winter temperatures and soils combine to provide the necessary requirements. If you are forcing bulbs for early bloom, you must somehow replicate this natural process, typically by chilling the bulbs before planting.......some bulbs can actually be purchased pre-chilled or labeled "good for forcing".

Chilling narcissus like Tete-a-tetes at 60F is not chilling them at all! They need temps at 35-45F for this process. The buds blasted because they did not receive sufficient vernalization. Some classifications of narcissus, like the jonquillas and tazettas (Divisions 7&8) originate from warmer climes and do not need similar periods of vernalization - these are the classifications that most often recommended for southern gardens or those in zone 8 and above.

About 6 weeks before you want the bulbs to bloom, you need to bring the containers out of storage and into warm conditions and bright light, like a window sill. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Often forced bulbs will get tall, leggy foliage and flowering stems......this is an indication that they are not getting high enough light levels - not always an easy thing to accomplish indoors :-) Also forced bulbs do not last as long in flower as do their cousins growing outside, so don't be surprised if they only last a couple of days before fading.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 10:30AM
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