Last year I tried something new and it worked really well.
I’ve always liked the look of a pot of tulip growing outside in the spring. Plus, if you have rabbit issues, growing tulips in a pot is a way to keep the plants out of reach of the rabbits. In the past, I thought the only way to do this was to pot the bulbs in the fall, treat the pot like you were going to force the bulbs and then move it outside in the spring.
But then I heard P. Allen Smith talk about how they grow tulips in the south.
Tulip bulbs need to have a period of cold temperatures in order to bloom. In places where there is no cold weather, people chill the bulbs in a refrigerator for a few months before planting them. Then they simply plant the pre-chilled bulbs and the tulips grow and blossom as if they had been in the ground all winter.
I liked this idea so I gave it a try. I didn’t buy the bulbs early in the fall – I waited until late November when they were half price. I wrapped the bulbs in some old sheets and put them in a box. I knew I didn’t need to refrigerate them; putting them in an unheated garage would do the trick. (I figured the sheet and box would provide a little protection in case it got too cold in the garage.)
In early March, when the tulips in the garden had started to break through the ground, I checked on the bulbs. By that time they had started to sprout – it looked like the cold treatment had worked. I planted them in a large pot filled with a soiless mix so that they were almost touching each other. The pot went outside and was kept well watered. Since I wasn’t planning on keeping the bulbs, I didn’t worry about fertilizing. The bulbs had enough nutrients stored within them to keep the tulips healthy until they were done blooming.
In about 2 months I had a nice pot of tulips in bloom. When the blooms had faded, I pulled out the tulips, put them in the compost bin and used the pot for summer annuals. You could take the tulips out of the pot and plant them in the garden after they bloom but I decided to treat them as annuals.
Since it worked so well last year, I’m using this trick again. The tulips have been chilled, potted and are outside waiting to grow. Sometime this spring I should have another pot of tulips for the front of the house.