Forcing tulips – care

Undoubtedly, tulips are associated with everyone with the onset of spring, with the first warm rays of the sun. Today, the tulip is perhaps the most popular, widespread decorative bulbous culture. Tulips bring joyful anticipation of the new gardening season into our lives. These spring flowers come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Tulips of different classes decorate the garden from snow melting to early summer.

Blooming tulips. Farmer Christina B Castro

Modern technologies now make it possible to grow this flower almost all year round. Tulips are among the best forcing plants. The desire to have tulips in bloom before they bloom in the garden prompts many flower lovers to pursue forcing.


What is forcing?

Forcing is a set of activities aimed at making plants bloom at an unusual time of the year.

In our latitudes, in winter, all plants are dormant, so they adapt to unfavorable winter conditions. Bulbous plants, including tulips, also go through a dormant period. Outwardly, it seems that at this time the life of the plant stops, but inside the bulb complex processes take place and the organs of the future plant are formed.

By influencing the tulip bulbs with certain factors, you can bring the plants out of dormancy and make them bloom. Under the influence of certain temperatures during storage and the subsequent forcing process, tulips begin to bloom several months earlier than usual. For example, blooming tulips can be obtained by the New Year, Christmas or by March 8.

Since in nature tulips bloom only after passing through a period of winter cooling (low temperature contributes to the formation of substances in the bulb that affect the further process of plant growth and flowering), then during the forcing process, a prerequisite is exposure of the bulbs to low temperatures. The duration of exposure depends on the varieties used for forcing. On average, it is 16-22 weeks.

Selection of varieties for distillation

For distillation for the New Year only varieties with a cooling period of at least 16 weeks can be used, that is, early flowering. For early (by January) distillation, such varieties as Brilliant Star, Dixis Favorite, Christmas Marvel, Most Miles, Lustigue Battle, Olga, Epricot Beauty and others are suitable.

For forcing in medium terms (February-March) most forcing varieties are suitable, in particular, tulips from the Darwin hybrids class: Diplomat, London, Oxford, Oxfords Elite, Parade, Scarborough, Vivex, Eric Hofsier, Apeldoorn, Apeldoorns Elite and many others.

For distillation by April use the following varieties: Ad Rem, America, Apel Dorn, Apeldoorns Elite, Burgundy Lace, Vivex, Gordon Cooper, Daydream, Keys Nelis, Lin vam der Mark, London, Oxford, Oxfords Elite, Parade, Fringit Elegance, Hibernia, Eric Hofsier …

For distillation by May 1 suitable varieties: Aristocrat, Diplomat, London, Negrita, Oxford, Parade, Temple of Beauty, Hibernia. In addition to those mentioned, many other varieties can be used for forcing.

What is the distillation?

The entire cycle of forcing can be roughly divided into three stages:

  1. Storage of bulbs after digging from open ground.
  2. Rooting (at low temperatures).
  3. Forcing itself (growing tulips in a heated room until flowering).

The preparation of the bulbs for forcing begins even during their growth in the open field: the plants intended for forcing are carefully cared for, which will contribute to the increased accumulation of nutrients in the bulbs. Care consists in the implementation of a full range of agrotechnical measures and mandatory decapitation (for botanists, this concept means the removal of a growth point in plants).

Tulip bulbsTulip bulbs. Farmer Alamy

Storing bulbs for forcing

Temperature is of paramount importance at the first stage of forcing (during storage of the bulbs). By changing the temperature in one direction or another, you can control the development of tulips and, to some extent, the timing of their flowering.

The temperature effect on bulbs during storage consists of two stages:

  • first – exposure to high temperatures,
  • the second – reduced.

The storage regime for bulbs to be forced is slightly different from the storage regime for bulbs that will be planted in open ground. The storage regime is significantly different only for those bulbs that are intended for early and late forcing.

After the bulbs are excavated, which is carried out at the usual time for tulips, they are stored at a temperature of 20-23 ° C for a month. This temperature is considered optimal for the formation of flower rudiments in the bulb. Then, during the month (August), the temperature is maintained at about 20 ° С, and in September it drops to 16-17 ° С.

Such storage temperatures roughly correspond to the average temperatures during these months, therefore, during storage, no special equipment is required to maintain a given mode in the storage. Minor deviations from the indicated temperatures do not have a significant effect on plants. However, with significant temperature deviations in any direction, the processes of flower primordium in the bulb are slowed down or anomalies appear in the form of “blind” buds.

Complexity distillation for the New Year lies in the fact that by the time the bulbs begin to cool, all parts of the future flower should be fully formed in them. In the middle lane, the rudiments of a flower are fully formed by mid-August, and with a cool and rainy summer, this period may be postponed by another month. To speed up the laying of all flower organs and start cooling the bulbs at the scheduled time, there are two ways: agrotechnical and physicochemical.

Agrotechnical method consists in the fact that tulips are grown under a film and decapitation of flowers is carried out. This method allows you to speed up the process of laying all the organs of the future flower by 2-3 weeks.

second method consists in the early digging of the bulbs. The bulbs are dug up as soon as yellowish spots appear on their covering scales. Then the bulbs are kept at a temperature of +34 ° C for a week. This temperature also helps to speed up the process of laying the organs of the future flower in the bulb. The bulbs prepared in this way are stored from mid-August until the moment of planting in the lower section of an ordinary home refrigerator.

The purpose of this preparation is to delay the development of leaf buds in the bulb and thereby enable the buds of flower organs to form faster in it.

Planting tulip bulbs for distillationPlanting tulip bulbs for distillation. Farmer Kevin Lee Jacobs

Planting and rooting bulbs

The substrate for planting bulbs can be any moisture-absorbing and breathable material with a neutral reaction. It can be pure river sand (Dutch flower growers use it), a mixture of sand and peat, pure peat, vermiculite, perlite, or a mixture of sand with garden soil. Even sawdust can be used as a substrate for forcing, but they do not retain moisture well, so frequent watering will be required during the rooting period.

In addition, the substrate for distillation must have a neutral reaction (pH 6,5-7), so sawdust and peat must be limed. It is also not advisable to use garden soil in its pure form, without any baking powder, since it becomes very compacted during watering.

The substrate of the following composition is optimal for forcing: 2 parts of garden soil, 1 part of well-rotted manure or compost and 1 part of river sand. It is useful to add wood ash to this mixture. It is better not to use the land from greenhouses, greenhouses, as well as poorly rotted manure – this is a favorable environment for the development of pathogens.

2/3 of the prepared substrate is poured into containers (pots, boxes, bowls) and slightly compacted. The bulbs are laid out on the soil surface at a distance of 0,5-1 cm from each other, while slightly pressing their bottoms into the soil. Then the bulbs are covered to the very top with prepared substrate or clean sand to the edges of the container. It is important that a homogeneous planting material is planted in one container – to ensure its simultaneous flowering.

After planting, the bulbs are watered abundantly. It is advisable to pour them with a solution of 0,2% calcium nitrate (20 g per 10 l of water). If, after watering, the tops of the bulbs are exposed and the soil has settled, the substrate must be filled up. It is important that there is a small layer of soil above the bulbs, otherwise bulbs may bulge out of the ground during rooting.

We moisten well the soil with tulip bulbsWe moisten well the soil with tulip bulbs. Farmer Kevin Lee Jacobs

After that, containers with bulbs are transferred to a basement, cellar or other room with a temperature from 0 to 10 ° C (the optimal temperature is 5-9 ° C).

Until mid-December, the bulbs need to be watered weekly and the room humidity should be kept at least 75-80%. Rooting and germination of tulips, depending on the variety, lasts from 16 to 22 weeks. By the end of December, the temperature in the room where the bulbs are stored is lowered to + 2..4 ° C and maintained. Lowering the temperature this way will prevent tulips from pulling out sprouts.

Containers with onions for distillation in the refrigeratorContainers with onions for distillation in the refrigerator. Farmer Kevin Lee Jacobs

Forcing mode

As a rule, tulips are transferred to a heated room for forcing 3 weeks before flowering. But it should be borne in mind – the earlier the forcing is carried out, the more time must elapse from the moment the tulips are transferred from a cold room to a warm one, and vice versa. Usually, by the time the plants are transferred to a warm room, tulip sprouts reach a height of 5-8 cm.

Containers with rooted bulbs are transferred to a room with a temperature of 12-15 ° C, while the lighting in the first 3-4 days should be weak. If the tulip sprouts have not grown enough, they are covered with dark paper caps, which are regularly removed and aired. After 3-4 days, the temperature is increased to 16-18 ° C and full illumination is given, while the plants should be additionally illuminated for 3-5 hours a day, and if there is a lack of sun, this is simply necessary, otherwise the tulips will stretch strongly.

When the tulip buds are colored, the temperature is slightly reduced (to 14-15 ° C), which will extend the flowering period of the plants, the flower stalks will be stronger, and the flowers are more brightly colored.

Every day the plants are watered and from time to time they are fertilized with calcium nitrate. Top dressing has a positive effect on the decorative effect of tulips and increases the number of flowers. It is advisable not to keep containers with flowering plants in the sun, as this reduces the duration of flowering.

Growing bulbs after distillation

There is an opinion among flower growers that the bulbs used for forcing are not suitable for further cultivation and are easier to throw away. But if you wish, you can grow them.

When forcing low-growing varieties of tulips (with short peduncles), flowers from plants are usually cut without leaving leaves on the bulb. In this case, the bulbs are dug out 3 weeks after cutting. If, after cutting the flowers, leaves were left on the bulb (when growing varieties with long peduncles, for example, from the Darwin hybrids class), then they continue to be watered and kept under maximum illumination until the leaves turn yellow. In this case, quite large replacement bulbs and a large baby can be obtained from some varieties.

After digging, the bulbs are dried for 2 weeks at a temperature of 24 ° C, then a month at 17-20 ° C and then before planting in the ground – at a temperature of 14-15 ° C. This storage mode allows you to keep the bulbs in good condition before planting (they do not dry out and do not start to grow prematurely).

After distillation, the bulbs are planted in open ground at the usual time for tulips. It is impractical to grow the bulbs used for early forcing, since they do not form large replacement bulbs and give few large babies. It takes more than one year to grow such bulbs before they bloom.

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Anna Evans

Author ✓ Farmer

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