Bulbs: You may have received or purchased some flower bulbs over the holidays. Pre-cooled paperwhite narcissus and hyacinth bulbs will root into water if suspended just above the surface of the water. Once rooted, they should produce flowers and leaves. Many garden centers sell vases that are designed just for these types of bulbs, or you can plant the bulbs in potting soil that drains well. Keep the bulbs cool — around 55°F to 65°F to keep them blooming longer.
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Bulbs that have not been pre-cooled, that are normally planted in fall, such as tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinth will need to be “forced” to bloom in early spring. Tulips and daffodils can be forced into bloom after about 13 weeks in a refrigerator at 35-38°F. They should not be allowed to be stored near any spoiling fruit or vegetables as the ethylene gas these materials produce can stunt the bulbs’ stalks and flowers. Pot them up before refrigeration, water them in and keep somewhat moist but not wet for best results.
If you’d like to keep and plant the tulips, daffodils and hyacinth bulbs out in your garden, wait till they finish blooming, cut off the dead flower stalk and keep the plants watered and fertilized like a normal houseplant until you can plant them outside in spring.
Lisa Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension horticulture educator