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Everything You Need to Know About Bulbs

Flower bulbs are the most fun and gratifying flowers to grow in your home. Their beautiful shapes and colors allow gardeners of all skill levels to create a stunning landscape or an indoor floral accent—with minimal maintenance. Caring for bulbs is easy: Our beautiful bulb gardens only need some bright light and a little bit of water, and they'll produce gorgeous fresh blooms that will last you for weeks.

Your bulbs arrive at your doorstep rooted and sprouted, and within a couple of weeks you'll see your pretty new flowers beginning to blossom. Once your flowers have bloomed, you can even cut them and place them in a vase with cool water to make a gorgeous centerpiece. Whether you're a bulb connoisseur or a first-time bulb buyer, our ready-to-bloom bulb gardens allow you to experience the full life cycle of a plant, right in the comfort of your own home. Here's everything you need to know to fully enjoy your brand-new bulbs.

Forcing Bulbs

If you were wondering how we get those gorgeous flowers to bloom as soon as they arrive at your home, here's how. The process of making a flower bulb bloom when you want it to, rather than allowing it to bloom naturally, is known as "forcing" the bulb. Most flower bulbs are normally dormant in the summertime and then bloom in the early spring, and this process can be manipulated indoors. During the forcing process, bulbs are placed in a pot and stored in a cooler to trick the bulbs into thinking it's outside in the winter cold. So when the bulbs are removed from the cooler, they think it's spring because the temperature has warmed up, and they start to sprout and bloom. This is the process our expert vendors use to ensure that your flowers start blossoming at the exact moment you receive them. After the flowers wilt, you can cut the spent flowers and store the bulbs in order to enjoy them again next year.

Storing Bulbs

Heavenly Hyacinth The best way to get your flowers to bloom again once they've wilted is to transfer them from the pot to your garden. Keep in mind that forcing bulbs indoors depletes a great deal of their energy, so some bulbs might not bloom as much (or at all) after the first year. If you want to save your forced bulbs, place them in a sunny location and continue watering them until they can be planted outdoors after the frost.

Now that you're familiar with how the forcing and storing processes work, here's a complete guide to how you can care for some of the most popular flower bulbs, both in a container and in your backyard.

Popular Bulb Varieties and Care

Heavenly Hyacinth Bulb Name: Hyacinth
Botanical Name: Hyacinthus
Growth Rate: Fast
Fragrance: Yes
Cut-able Flower: Yes

Bulb Facts and Care:

A member of the lily family, the hyacinth is the most popular fragrant flower bulb. Its name is derived from the ancient Greek myth of Hyacinth, a young boy who was favored by the god Apollo. According to the myth, Apollo turned the boy into a flower when he accidentally died during a game of discus-throwing. The Dutch have been breeding hyacinths since the 1600s. Even though the Dutch variety has been the most famous because of their large flowers, thousands of other hyacinth types are also available. The hyacinth is best known for its perfume-like fragrance, which you can notice even if you are standing at a distance from the flower.

The hyacinth can grow to about 6-12 inches in height, and it typically blooms between late winter and early spring. It only needs partial shade to grow, but it can also thrive in full sun exposure. However, the hyacinth's blooms last longer when they're kept in bright but indirect sunlight. It normally prospers in neutral or slightly acidic soil, but it deteriorates in overly wet soil. For early spring flowering, hyacinth bulbs can be planted in the autumn in the garden, or it can be forced indoors for blooming.

Plant the bulbs 7-8 inches deep in the soil, with the pointy side facing up. When you're planting hyacinth bulbs outdoors, give them some room to grow. Spacing them out 5-6 inches apart from each other is ideal. When you are forcing the bulbs, they will need 11-14 weeks of near-freezing temperatures and moisture before they can bloom indoors. A cool, dark spot (like a garage or a refrigerator) is the ideal place to keep the forced bulbs during those weeks. They can be planted more closely together in the pot, since they won't have or need much space to spread out. Potted hyacinths don't usually bloom a second time when they're kept in the pot, but transferring them to the ground may help them bloom again the following year.

Wherever you plant the bulbs, feed them by placing bulb food into the soil along with the bulbs. Make sure to wear gloves when handling hyacinth bulbs: They can cause itchiness in people with sensitive skin. The soil should be damp, not wet, until the hyacinths sprout. (If they're in a pot, check to ensure the container has enough drainage holes at the base.) Keep watering the hyacinths throughout the winter, and make sure the soil dries completely in between each watering.

Spring Tulips Bulb Name: Tulip
Botanical Name: Tulipa
Growth Rate: Medium
Fragrance: No
Cut-able Flower: Yes

Bulb Facts and Care:

The most well-known Dutch flower bulb, the tulip was first discovered in Persia back in the mid 1500s and was brought to Holland in 1593. The flower burst into popularity during a period from 1634 to 1637 called "Tulip Mania," when tulips became the No. 1 exported goods of the Netherlands, causing the flower's price to skyrocket. Now, there are 12 different classes of tulips and more than 2,300 registered tulip names, but most are not grown anymore.

Full-bloomed tulips can tower up to 30 inches high, and most are perennials. Some varieties, however, only bloom for two years. They typically blossom in the spring and fall into one of three blooming categories: early-flowering, midseason and late-flowering. The best time to plant them is in the fall, depending on the timing of their blooming. Early-flowering tulips can be planted in September, and late-flowering tulips can be planted in November. Tulips mostly do well when they're planted in the ground, but some varieties are also ideal for forcing indoors.

The process of forcing tulip bulbs is almost the same as that of forcing daffodil bulbs, except the bulbs should be positioned so that the flat part faces toward the wall of the container, and the top of the bulb should sit about 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot. Don't completely cover the planted bulbs with soil; allow the tips to poke out from the fertilizer. To get the potted bulbs to bloom, keep them in a cool, dark spot for 12-17 weeks and water them consistently. Allow the soil to dry in between watering sessions. When the tulips begin to sprout, move them to a cool spot with low or medium light and keep them there for four to five days. Then, relocate them to a warm and brightly lit area. Make sure to turn the pot on a regular basis so that the flower stem grows straight.

In the outdoors, tulip bulbs should be planted in well-drained soil and should get full sun exposure. Dig a hole about 1 foot deep in the soil, and check the bulb's packaging to find out how deep into the ground the bulbs should be placed. During the winter, place a layer of mulch over the bulbs to protect them from being frozen.

Pink Amaryllis Bulb Name: Amaryllis
Botanical Name: Hippeastrum
Growth Rate: Slow
Fragrance: No
Cut-able Flower: Yes

Bulb Facts and Care:

Amaryllis is a generic name for Hippeastrum, a type of flower in the amaryllis family that is native to coastal hills and stream banks of Cape Province, South Africa. They are also commercially grown in Israel, Brazil and Holland. Many of the Dutch growers have expanded their growing operation to Brazil, where there is plenty of land. Even though it's popularly known as a Christmas flower with red and white colors, the amaryllis actually comes in a variety of colors, like yellow and pink. Amaryllis can be grown outdoors in tropical areas, and they are also ideal house plants.

The amaryllis bulb is typically dormant during the summer and blooms in the winter. It can be planted in the fall and forced so that it's ready to blossom for the holiday season. When planting a new amaryllis bulb, it's better to keep it in a small, crowded pot. A container that's 5-7 inches in diameter will usually do. Fill two-thirds of the pot with well-draining potting mix, and place the bulb into the soil alongside an upright bamboo shoot. This will anchor the flower, which tends to flop over when it blooms. Cover the bulb with more potting mix and water it, without making it too wet. Place the pot in bright but indirect sunlight and water it regularly. The flower should bloom within several weeks. Turn the pot every so often so that each side of the flower receives equal exposure to sunlight.

When the flowers have faded, you can remove the blooms and keep the foliage outdoors in partial shade during the summer. To force the amaryllis to grow during the holidays, bring the plant indoors in September or October, and store it in a cool, dry place. Depending on when you want the amaryllis to grow (Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example), stop watering the amaryllis about 10-12 weeks before the holiday. Once a flower stalk shoots up from the pot, resume watering and move the pot to a warm, sunny spot.

Delightful Daffodils Bulb Name: Daffodil
Botanical Name: Narcissus
Growth Rate: Fast
Fragrance: No
Cut-able Flower: Yes

Bulb Facts and Care:

Known as the herald of spring, the daffodil got its proper name, Narcissus, from ancient Greek mythology. As the story goes, a vain young boy named Narcissus fell so in love with his own reflection in a pool that he fell into the water and drowned. The boy was then turned into a daffodil by the gods. There are more than 50 different species of daffodils, and more than 25,000 cultivars (or hybrids) are split among 13 different classification divisions. These trumpet-like flowers are renowned for their long lifespan, which can last for decades.

A full-grown daffodil can grow from 12-18 inches high, and they start to bloom in early spring. Like the hyacinth, the daffodil requires neutral or slightly acidic soil for survival, and soaked soil can cause the flower to rot. The best time to plant it is in early autumn, and it benefits most from direct sunlight. Bulbs can be planted in the garden, where they'll produce more flowers every year, and some varieties are also ideal for indoor forcing.

When planting a daffodil bulb, insert it about 3-5 inches into the soil, with the pointy side of the bulb facing up. Before you cover up the bulb, sprinkle some bulb food into the soil.

Daffodils that are forced can grow in a pot for about three years—as long as the pot is big enough to give the flower space to grow. When forcing daffodils, place them in a container that's at least 8 inches in diameter and 8-12 inches deep. The pot should also have drainage holes to keep the soil dry. Fill 2/3 of the container with potting mix, and then place the bulbs into the soil slightly spread apart. After covering the bulbs with more soil and watering them, move the pot to a cool, dark area (like the garage or refrigerator) and keep it there for 10-15 weeks, watering it whenever the soil dries up. Then, once the bulbs start sprouting, move the pot into a sunny and cool area (it'll help the flowers to bloom at their best) and keep watering it. Although you can keep your bloomed daffodils in the pot for three years, they'll last even longer if you eventually transfer them to the ground.

The daffodil is a low-maintenance flower once it blooms, whether it's in the ground or in a pot: All you have to do is regularly water it, allowing the soil to dry in between. When the flower fades, stop watering it after three or four weeks. The flower is dormant during the summer and needs to be kept in dry soil.

Blue Iris Bulb Name: Iris
Botanical Name: Iris Reticulata
Growth Rate: Fast
Fragrance: No
Cut-able Flower: Yes

Bulb Facts and Care:

As an ornamental flower that comes in a wide range of colors, the iris was fittingly named after the Greek word for "rainbow." More than 300 species of perennial and bulbous irises have been identified, and their flashy blossoms have made them a favorite at botanical gardens, museums and flower shows. The flower has been used as an artistic symbol of monarchy since 2100 B.C., when images of the bloom were painted on the walls of King Minos' palace in Crete, Greece. Even the world-renowned fleur-de-lis emblem—which throughout history has been used for everything from royal coat of arms, to sorority logos, to interior design—was modeled after the iris.

Most iris varieties blossom in the late spring, making late fall the ideal time to plant iris bulbs. These sensational flowers can grow up to a whopping 27 to 41 inches tall, and they're known for their sturdiness and ease of care: They can survive through weeds, grass and other overcrowding plants, even if left unattended for a long period of time. The bulbous Iris Reticulata is an ideal garden plant, and it's also an ideal bulb for forcing. When planting iris bulbs in a container, line the bottom of the container—which should have drainage holes—with a 1- to 2-inch layer of gravel. Then, fill the container up to the rim with potting mix and dig a hole that has a depth twice the size of the bulb's diameter. Place the bulb, wide side down, into the hole and lightly cover the bulb with a layer of potting mix. Place the container in a cool, dark area for eight to 10 weeks, then move it to warm spot with bright sunlight and continue watering it on a regular basis. Irisis go dormant during the summer, and they need to be stored in a cool, dry place during this time.

When planting iris bulbs in the ground, make sure to select a large area that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. Dig a hole in the ground that's two times deeper than the size of the bulb, and make sure to use well-draining soil. Each hole should be spaced out about 1 foot apart. Once the bulbs are in the ground, water them but do not soak them. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch on top of the soil to help it retain moisture and protect the flowers from weeds.

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