Garden Q&A: Increase your chances of getting 2nd bloom from Easter tulips
Question: I left the tulip bulbs from Easter in the pots and would like to replant them in the pots to have blooms again in the spring. Should I put them in the refrigerator to give them a cold shock to get them to bloom?
Answer: Although saving spring-blooming bulbs that were forced into flower for the Easter holiday can sometimes result in repeat blooms the following spring, this is often not the case. Because they were “tricked” into blooming out-of-season, many times the bulbs do not have enough energy stores to produce subsequent blooms.
That being said, since you took such care in saving them, here’s what to do to increase your odds of success.
Empty the pots and carefully separate the bulbs from the potting soil, brushing off as much of the soil as possible. Replant only the healthiest bulbs, and discard any that are soft, mushy or dried out. Purchase new, sterile potting soil and scrub out the pot with a 10 percent bleach solution to kill any potential pathogens. Re-pot the bulbs in the container with the new potting soil. Ideally, the bulbs should be 4 to 6 inches beneath the soil surface.
Water the pot well, cover it with a closed plastic bag, and stick it in the back of the refrigerator. Check the pot every two or three weeks to be sure it doesn’t dry out too much, but be careful not to overwater or mold will develop. Allow the potted bulbs to chill for a minimum of 10 weeks.
The majority of spring-blooming bulbs need a set number of days below a critical temperature to initiate blooms. The necessary temperature and timing vary, depending on the species and the variety of bulb you are growing. But, for most bulbs, 10 weeks in the average refrigerator will suffice to force the bulbs into flower.
When the minimum timing requirement has been met, remove the container from the fridge and put it into a warm room. The bulbs should sprout within a week or two, with blooms coming shortly thereafter. Keep the pot well-watered and out of direct sunlight to help the blooms last longer.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.