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Anyone tried containerized tulips?

Posted by evaldas (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 17, 11 at 13:32


I have big plans to try to grow potted tulips this year for winter time. I'm going to use my fridge...
I read a book about tulip forcing, but it's a bit too complicated (it's intended more for the professional industry), because it says to let them root at first at 9*C, then move to 5*C, then to 2*C (that's one method, there's also I think "5*C method" and "ice method")... And it says that it's only OK for temps to fluctuate by +-0.5*C. I can't do that :D!
My plan is this:
I ordered 6 varietes of tulips - 48 bulbs total (including 10x Yokohama - said to be the easiest to grow in pots, and earliest bloomer).
I'm going to divide my varietes into two groups.
The first group I'm going to soak for 1-2 hours in a 0.15-0.2% solution of MgSO4 (this is said to be a critical point for container grown tulips, it apparently softens the bottom of the bulb and the roots can emerge easier (otherwise they'd grow upwards and that would make them weak), the other alternative would be making a cut in the bottom, since I have no idea where to cut, I'm going to stick with the soaking...). Then I'm going to plant the bulbs (letting their tips stick out) into 1:1:1 sand:perlite:peat mix, I'm gonna water and put them into the fridge for ~16 weeks (I'll be watering them periodically).
The other group I'm going to simply put dry bulbs into the fridge (in a bag, with holes) for 8 weeks. Then take them after the 8 weeks, soak them in the MgSO4 solution and plant them into the same type of mix, water, and put them into the fridge for 8 more weeks, allowing them to root and start growing simultaneously.
I know in the fridge there's risk of ethylene gas, but the book says it has very very little effect on bulbs in temps below 13*C (in my fridge it's around 7*C), so I don't think I'll have to be too worried.
I was also thinking about watering at 350 ppm of calcium nitrate after the cold treatment when the shoots appear, but I'm not able to find it here...

Anyways my questions:
What do you think about my plans? Do you have any advice?
Have you tried growing tulips in containers? What was your experience (I am talking about same plant height, same bloom time - uniformity)? What worked and what didn't? Maybe you have some pictures of the results?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Anyone tried containerized tulips?

Whoa. That's some big plans. Where exactly do you live? That one bit of information will help us know why you are planning such an elaborate process.

I live in the Deep South. Here, we put our tulip bulbs into the fridge (away from ripening fruit: ethylene gas, you know. And yes, my experience says it definitely can have an effect.) for eight to ten weeks, then plant them outside in the ground, or in pots, either way. They come up in the spring and bloom and that's that.

Further north (U.S.A), they simply plant them in the fall, where they will get plenty of winter chill time before they come up and bloom in the spring. No soaking. No cutting.

Again. We really can't advise you until we know where you live.

RE: Anyone tried containerized tulips?

I live in Lithuania (Europe), it's zone 5, I think.
Tulips are planted here into the ground at the end of September and they bloom at about the end of April.

RE: Anyone tried containerized tulips?

"Tulip forcing with the 5*C method.

After keeping dry bulbs in temperatures of 5*C for 9-14 weeks, after the bloom completely forms (G stage), planted, the roots and the shoots grow simultaneously. Bulbs forced by this method are planted into greenhouse beds, and grown warmly right away. The plants bloom after about 6-10 weeks.
To force with this method, only 4-5 cm bulbs are chosen, and they're planted 2 cm deep (counting from the top)."
(this is from the book)
I think I stated incorrectly, that I was going to keep dry bulbs for 8 weeks in the fridge, soak, plant into containers, and put back into the fridge for 8 more weeks, did I? And I shouldn't keep their "noses" (I mean bulb tips) out of the soil?

RE: Anyone tried containerized tulips?

I found this page
It's research on varieties of tulips that are best for pots.
But now I'm getting more confused as I learn more...
First of, I'm now thinking about only storing dry bulbs in the fridge, not potted bulbs, BUT this website says that for most varieties 16 weeks is the optimal time, but the book says that the dry bulbs have to be stored for 9-14 weeks in 5*C. I'm assuming in that website they don't mean dry bulbs, they mean planted bulbs.
So this makes me still want to try to cool planted bulbs... But I don't understand if 16 weeks after they root, or 16 weeks with the rooting?

RE: Anyone tried containerized tulips?

Can you buy 'prepared' bulbs in Lithuania? These have had all the chilling done for you by the bulb company and are ready to plant in the containers. You then put the containers in a cool frost free place until the shoots show and then bring them indoors.

RE: Anyone tried containerized tulips?

  • Posted by pippi21 Zone 6b Silver Sprin (My Page) on
    Wed, Sep 7, 11 at 12:02

Check Kevin Lee Jacob's blog called A garden for The House.
Look on the sidebar to 2009 and scan down his pictures, and you'll see he has a spare refrigerator in his house that he has potted up his bulbs and keeps them there. While you are there, browse over his entire website. It's full of very valuable information regarding flowers, cooking, deocorating, etc. From some postings, he writes for several gardening magazines. He knows his stuff!

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