It's Spring and it's SHOW Time!

Before and After
Blossom Care

• When you see signs of life, remove the mulch.

• While you're at it, sprinkle bulb booster about 3 inches from the plants, using _ cup for every 12 feet of plants. Water well to start the fertilizer working…if rain isn't in the forecast.

iris mix

• Note: thinking seems to vary on the timing for spring fertilizing, though all sources recommend a dose when the new growth appears. One source also recommends calcium if soil pH is above 5.4, using dolomitic limestone.

• When cutting tulips for a bouquet, cut when the color is just starting to show and before the flower fully opens. Wrap string or florist's tape along the full length of a bunch of stems, then wrap in stiff craft paper and submerge in tepid water for eight hours. This will help strengthen and straighten the stems. If stems are allowed to droop for the first few hours in water, the stems will continue to curve.

• When a bloom has faded, remove it so the plant's energy returns to building up the bulb. Do not allow a seed pod to form.

• Do not remove withering leaves until they are totally brown. Some people wait until the stems can be easily pulled from the ground without pulling up the bulb. This is important as the bulb is replenishing itself.

• Several plant books recommend adding fertilizer at this point also, though a research source suggests that fertilizer is wasted when added at this time. We recommend that you forego this application because the roots are dying and can't absorb fertilizer.

• Once the bulb's leaves are withered, you may want to dig up your bulbs, allow them to cure in a cool, dim location for replanting in the fall. Another option is to replant immediately after the bloom, letting the foliage fade in the bulb's new location.

• If you want your bulbs to naturalize, avoid disturbing them. Chionodoxa, crocus, scilla companulata, dwarf iris, daffodils, and muscari are all quite capable of living long lives in Juneau.

• And last, but not least: Send us the feedback card and let us know how your bulbs grew and what you think! This will help us plan next year's sale. We want to earn your satisfaction and continued support and your comments are important to us.

Things you might notice
and what to do about it

• If you noticed that your blooms are getting smaller, you'll want to dig up your bulbs and replant them, giving them more space and fertilizer. Tulips will need to be replaced.

• Daffodils and crocuses are most likely to need dividing and probably not more often than every 5 or 6 years. If bulbs have babies, you may want to divide them by gently detaching them from the mother bulb. This will reduce the density of the clump of flowers you had, but the bulb will produce nice sized blooms within a few years.

blue heron

• If a misshapen or discolored flower is found, you are best off digging out the bulb and discarding it to keep any disease or insect from bothering other bulbs.

• "Blossom Blast" can ruin a forming bloom. This occurs when poor weather conditions in the country of origin prevent the development of the flowering bud. Since established nurseries will replace such bulbs, we'll want to know if you experience this problem so that we can go to bat for you. You should let us know on the comment card we are including with your order.

• If you get little critters into your bulbs, you can protect them by using wire cages, like chicken wire and either planting the bulbs in wire baskets, or anchoring the wire at the surface and then spreading mulch over the top.

Forcing Bulbs
Some of the bulbs we are offering are ideal for winter forcing. These include crocuses, Angelique Tulips, Dwarf Iris, Chionodoxa, and Muscari. They require a dark, chilling period, and then when brought into warmth and light, will think that spring has arrived. Daffodils and tulips are worth a try, but are trickier.

Start in early October for January bloom, mid-October for February and in November for blooms in March and April.

If clay pots are used, soak overnight prior to planting. Pot one type of bulb in a pot with a drainage hole, and use a potting mix. A six inch pot can hold 6 tulips, 3 daffodils, or 15 crocus, grape hyacinth or other small bulb. The container should be at least 2 times as deep as the bulb. Fill deep with potting medium. Bulbs should be set so that the tip or nose of the bulb is even with the top of the pot. Space bulbs so that they are almost touching and are close to the surface of the soil so that there's plenty of space for root growth. You can plant tulips with the flat edge of the bulb to the outside of the pot. Add more soil to within _inch of the rim. Water thoroughly and then keep the soil from drying out. Label each pot with the planting date.

Cool the bulbs by placing the containers in a refrigerator, unheated garage or cool basement where temperatures can stay above freezing (35-45 degrees). Cold periods are as follows:

Muscari and crocus: 8-10 weeks

Chionodoxa: 10-12 weeks

Daffodils: 12-14 weeks

Tulips: 14-16 weeks

If storing bulbs in the refrigerator before planting them, you can reduce the above cold period according to the amount of time in storage. If storing in the fridge, remember…use the crisper, open paper sacks and no fruit or tomatoes.

Remove from the cold when shoots are 2-4 inches tall. Set pots on a tray of pebbles - keeps their feet out of the water. For the first 10 days, place bulbs under a fluorescent light to green them up in a 55-60 degree area. Then move them to a sunnier location, away from heat or drafts. In 3-4 weeks, blooms should appear. To keep plants from getting leggy, move the plants to a cooler area at night. After blooming, let the foliage fade to feed the bulb. Bulbs cannot be re-forced another year. You can remove the bulbs, dry them and store them for planting in your garden in the next fall.

Forcing Muscari: If you don't have a cool place to store pots, chill bulbs in paper bags for 8 weeks, then pot them and store in a cool place for a couple more weeks. When roots appear in the drainage holes, move pots into the light and warmth.

Forcing Daffodils: These are more difficult to force. Use a commercial potting soil mix of peat, bark and perlite with a pinch of slow release fertilizer (8-32-16). Bottom heat and artificial light help with rooting and keep stems from elongating. Water with a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to 1 quart of water.

May your Spring Garden
Grow Beautifully


Gardening in Southeast Alaska
by the Juneau Garden Club

The Daffodil Mart Catalog
Sunset's Western Garden Book

Planting with Bulbs by Ann Reilly • 
The Alaska Gardener's Handbook
by Lenore Hedla

Handouts from the U of A
Cooperative Extension Service
and advice from Jim Douglas

Again - thanks so much for supporting the Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club.


This page updated September 25, 2008 © Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club • webmaster