How to Jumpstart Summer Blooming Bulbs
I live and garden in Zone 4b. If I waited until it was warm enough to start bulbs outdoors, it would be the end of summer before they bloomed. Of course, I could buy the plants, but why should I pay someone else to grow them, when I can do it myself. Plus, I'm sort of a gardening geek and I get a kick out of watching things grow.
Supplies for Starting Bulbs Indoors:
- Bulbs or Tubers
- Pots - at least 5 inches or larger
- Good potting mix.
- Early Start Chart to keep track of the date your bulb was planted and the date it emerged, as well as other notes. This will be great to refer back to the following year (stop by Gingham Gardens to pick up yours).
Steps for Starting Summer Blooming Bulbs Indoors:
Start your bulbs about 6 weeks (caladium bulbs take more like 8 weeks) before the last frost date in your gardening zone. If you aren't sure of your gardening zone, just google "what gardening zone am I in."
Read the directions on your potting mix. Some potting mixes may need water added before starting to plant.
As a general rule of thumb, bulbs or tubers need to be planted a depth of 2 times their diameter. It's best to follow directions on the package of bulbs or tubers, but if you don't have the package, this gives you a place to start.
Fill your pot about half way with potting mix.
Place the bulb or tuber on top of the soil. Pay special attention to which end is up. With some bulbs it's difficult to tell, but I generally put the hairy root side down and the side with nodules up.
Finish filling the pot with soil and tamp the soil down lightly.
Water really well, unless your potting mix was wet to begin with. You want moist soil, but not soggy wet soil.
Next, place your potted bulbs into a tray that will catch water run-off.
This step is totally optional, but I highly recommend using a heat mat underneath the tray. A heat mat helps to provide consistent soil temperatures. And, some bulbs like caladium bulbs take forever to send up shoots and I believe the heat from underneath really helps them along.
Don't forget to water, but don't over water. Just a warning, if the soil stays wet or soggy for too long, the bulbs will rot. Don't let your pots sit in water.
Once I start seeing growth, I do a little happy dance! Really, it doesn't take much to get me excited. At this point the pots need a good light source. Unlike seedlings, my bulbs and tubers have always done fine in a sunny, south facing window. If the plants don't have an adequate light source they will get very leggy and spindly. If you don't have a sunny enough spot for them, consider putting them under grow lights. For more information about my light set-up, see my post on Indoor Seed Starting.
Here is an example of what I do with some of the bulbs I start indoors. Years ago, I purchased this old wheelbarrow from an estate sale. We drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and I've used it every year since as a planter somewhere in my gardens. It's a favorite of mine, but as a planter it takes a lot of plants to make it look full. The last few years, I've started both caladium and begonias to use in it and that makes it a little less expensive to fill.
For the complete tutorial and more pictures, pop over and check it out. I would encourage you to get a jump-start on your spring gardening and start some bulbs indoors.