Last winter it was Iceland poppies. This winter, amaryllis and crocus. It’s amazing what one will go through to add a spot of color to sweep away the winter blahs.
I’m talking about forcing flowers, as in, inviting them into your living room. The warmth catapults them into “let’s grow!” mode. The results can be stunning and heartwarming. Not to mention you feel better!
Forcing flowers indoors in winter is a great way to bring the beauty of spring and summer into your home during the not-so-light months. The process is quite simple: Buy, borrow or dig up bulbs that have been pre-chilled either outside or in the fridge and plant them in pots. Then bring the pots inside where they are given the right amount of light, warmth and moisture to encourage them to bloom.
For those of you who never got around to planting your bulbs last fall, this could be your chance to enjoy the blooms after all.
Not only do indoor-forced flowers provide a welcome burst of color and life in the winter, but they also offer several benefits that can improve your quality of life.
For example, one of the biggest benefits of forcing flowers indoors is the positive impact they have on your mental health. Studies have shown that being surrounded by plants (think houseplants, herbs and hydroponic stations) and flowers can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being.
And it’s not just the sight of flowers and green-growing stuff. The scent of plants in your home can help lift your mood and create a more peaceful and relaxing environment. Amen.
Another benefit of indoor-forced flowers is their ability to improve air quality. Many plants, including those that are commonly used for indoor forcing, are natural air purifiers. NASA put this to the test years ago when they considered sending plants to the moon (or elsewhere) as a natural air cleaner and oxygen-producer for astronauts.
Plants also help remove harmful chemicals and toxins from the air (installed any new carpet or painted a bathroom or bedroom lately?), making the environment inside your home healthier and more comfortable.
So, what kind of flowers can you force indoors in winter? There are many different types of bulbs that are well suited to indoor forcing, including paperwhite narcissus, amaryllis, hyacinth and crocus. Now Iceland poppies don’t grow from bulbs, but the clumps I brought in the middle of October continued to bloom for about six weeks.
They don’t like a space that is too warm, which explains why they flourish in our outside gardens.
Each of these plants has its own unique qualities and can be forced to bloom in different ways, so it’s helpful to experiment.
To get started with indoor flower forcing, you’ll need a few basic supplies, including a pot, soil and bulbs. Start by selecting a pot that is the right size for the bulbs you have chosen. Make sure the pot has drainage holes. Then fill the pot with a well-draining soil mix and place the bulbs on top, leaving just the top third of the bulb exposed. Cover the bulbs thoroughly with soil and water.
Next, place the potted bulbs in a bright, warm location with indirect light, such as near a window. Be sure to water the soil regularly, keeping it evenly moist, but not waterlogged.
Wait for the bulbs to sprout and grow, which may take several weeks. Once the plants start to bloom, move them to a cooler location to extend the life of the flowers.
Another way to extend the bloom period is to set the pots in a cooler space at night. At our house that’s the “cold room,” an unheated space adjacent to the kitchen where we store produce, bulk spices, grains and so on.
In the morning, I bring them out, set them on the dining room table or windowsill and voila, they open right up!
One final note: When bringing plants from the outside to a warm environment, pay close attention to P-E-S-T-S. Within a few weeks of escorting a bunch of Iceland poppies into the kitchen, the low winter sunlight revealed some sparkly and colorful spider webs.
AACCKK! Spider mites! One of the most difficult indoor plant pests to get rid of. Sigh, the poppies spent the rest of the winter outside next to the BBQ grill.
So, why not give it a try and enjoy the benefits of indoor-forced flowers for yourself?
Seeds to start:
Vegetables: Celery, leek, globe artichokes, tomatoes (for the super adventurous)
Flowers: Sweet peas, pansies, lobelia
Herbs: Chives, oregano, mint, yarrow, parsley
Sow seeds direct in the soil:
Beans, peas, beets, radishes, carrots, spinach, turnips, rutabagas, corn, poppies
Sow direct OR grow as seedlings:
Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard greens (grown as a mix for salads), nasturtiums, cress, peas and beans (if you’re careful)
Grow seedlings for transplanting:
Collards, kale (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), oregano, thyme, cilantro, basil, calendula, tomatoes, peppers, leeks, onions, celery, squash, parsley, chives, cucumbers, beans
For organic gardening tips, fun recipes and more find Marion at:
Do you have a gardening question? firstname.lastname@example.org
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