Flowering bulbs provide some of the finest things to be found in any indoor collection of plants. There is something particularly clean and crisp about the flowers-a quality which may be depended upon to add a halo of brilliance to many otherwise drab days. Then, too, numerous species may be potted to provide a long succession of bloom-from late autumn until spring if it is your wish. Bulbs are most punctilious in their flowering schedule. While they may be questionable as guides for catching trains, they unfurl their buds at remarkably precise intervals.
For purposes of general information relative to house specimens, the bulbs are divided into two main sections hardy bulbs and tender bulbs. The hardy kinds are those which are grown out of doors throughout most of the United States. Among them are found such plants as glory-of-the snow (Chionodoxa), crocus, grape hyacinth (Muscari), hyacinth, iris, lily, tulip, etc. Bulbs which are garden tenants only in the warmer states are regarded as tender; they include Amaryllis, calla lily (Zantedeschia), Cape cowslip (Lachenalia), Clivia, Cyrtanthus, fairy lily (Zephyranthes), Gloxinia Hippeastrum, Scarborough lily (Vdlota speciosa), Ornithogdum, Oxalis, and Sprekelia.
The specific reason for dividing bulbs into these groups, as far as house plants are concerned, is because each group calls for a different potting treatment.
Let us consider the hardy bulbs first. They are planted in the early fall in pots or bulb pans. Use Potting Mixture 3, omitting the cow manure, unless otherwise indicated and plenty of drainage material. After the bulbs are potted (instructions for potting are included with description of species), they are ready for storing. Storing is extremely important in the successful culture of hardy bulbous house plants; indifference to this essential step is responsible for many failures in flowering. Hardy bulbs require a strong root structure before top-growth is allowed to develop. When planted outside in -the garden, -they develop roots normally during the fall and winter. If they are to be forced indoors, some substitute for the natural root-developing period must be provided. This is accomplished by burying the bulbs, pot and all, in cold frames, trenches, or pits out of doors. Place the pots on a layer of ashes and cover them to a depth of 6 inches to 1 foot with ashes or sand. After the bulbs have been in storage for six or seven weeks, examine the pots. If roots project through the drainage hole, they are ready to be taken into the house. If no roots show, let the pots remain buried for a week or two longer (the relative rooting period is given in the table of species). When several containers of tulips or hyacinths are stored at the same time, the additional pots may be brought into the house at two-week intervals which will give a succession of flowers. It will not injure the bulbs to leave them in the ground in the meanwhile.
If you live in an apartment house, or do not find it convenient to store bulbs out of doors, the process may be attended to in the cellar, or any dark spot where the temperature does not exceed 45-50 degrees. Place the potted bulbs on a pile of earth or slightly dampened sawdust and cover them with peat moss.
Some gardeners prefer to plant bulbs in prepared fiber rather than in soil, and it is true that fibre offers much in the way of convenience and cleanliness. The method of growing in this medium is simple. Fill the pot or pan to the top with fiber, previously saturated with water and then squeezed out. Plant the bulbs exactly as you would if you were using soil. Store in the cellar and add water every two weeks. When the bulbs are well rooted, water should be added more frequently. Fiber is not recommended, how ever, for bulbs which remain in the same container for several years, as in the case with many of the tender species.
After the pots are brought into the house, or out of the cellar, they should be placed in a cool room in dim light. They may have more heat and light as the tops develop. While most bulbous plants demand sun to mature strong flower buds and healthy foliage, it is advisable to remove them from direct sun as soon as the first flower opens. The blossoms will last longer and retain their brilliancy better if out of the sun.
Hyacinths, and tulips sometimes, have a mean habit of opening their flowers while they arc still squatting at the base of the leaf spike. The result, as you can imagine, is a poor specimen of greatly reduced beauty. Fortunately, it is quite easy to overcome this fault by either capping the pot with a cornucopia of paper or inverting another pot, with the drainage hole enlarged, over it. This allows the flower stalk to gain height before the buds open
It may be properly asked--~'why grow the small Dutch bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinths and scillas indoors when they flower so early in the garden?" True, March and April find these plants welling from the awakening soil like livid drops of color, yet if -their bulbs or corms are potted early in the fall, they will flower for you in January and February; and it is well worth the effort to beat spring by a month or more. They are very welcome in the house and are a promise of what is to follow outside.
After hardy bulbs have flowered in their containers many gardeners wonder what to do with the bulbs. Throw them away? Save them for forcing another season? Plant them outside? By all means don't throw them away; it is a waste of perfectly good plants.
In keeping hardy bulbs for further use one -thing must be clearly understood. The formation of embryo flowers and leaves inside -the bulb is largely dependent upon the present leaves. They must grow and ripen, taking their allotted time in which to do so, otherwise, no future flowers are formed within the bulb. With this in mind you may do one of two things to ripen your bulbs. They may be left in the pot after flowering and kept watered until the foliage turns yellow, then brown, and finally dies down. After that, water should be withheld entirely and the bulbs stored away in a cool, dark place. This is the usual procedure when bulbs are to be forced a second time. Second forcing, in most instances, are very unsatisfactory; unless you are an expert, the practice is not recommended.
Tulips, for instance, make new bulbs each season; and in a pot the new bulbs seldom grow large enough to produce flowers the second year. The same is true of crocus corms. While more success may be expected from narcissi, which produce bulb offsets instead of new bulbs, the results are still apt to be disappointing. It is better to purchase new bulbs each year for forcing.
Forced bulbs may, however, be planted outside in the garden when they have served their purpose in the house. It will often take them a year to gain renewed vigor and the ability to produce flowers of normal stature or at all; yet the second year after planting most of them will act as though they had been dug into the garden in the first place -they will have forgotten their apprenticeship in the house. This is true of all but the early tulips-the type most often used for forcing-they usually continue to produce leaves without flowers unless put through a course of lifting, ripening, and storing. In any event, it is better to try them in the garden than to discard them abruptly.
BULBS FOR INDOOR CULTURE