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Bring some spring indoors       Send a link to a friend

[JAN. 15, 2005]  URBANA -- Potted bulbs might be the solution to cabin fever and longing for a spring that is months away, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"At this time of year, potted tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other spring flowers are being sold at affordable prices," said James Schuster. "You should choose plants that are in bud, but not yet open, for maximum enjoyment as you watch the plants finish maturing and the blooms opening into their prime."

It is also a good idea to protect the plants for the trip from the store to your home.

"Double-bag, if possible, the plants if temperatures are below freezing," he said. "Have a warm car and do not make any stops between the store and home. These plants like it cool -- they do not like it freezing."

Once home, you should place the potted flowers in a bright location but avoid direct sunlight.

"Sunlight reflecting on the pots and plants warms them up to temperatures often above the air temperature," he explained. "The added warmth tends to speed up the life cycle of the plants, thus shortening their bloom time.

"In addition, try to maintain the air temperature at 72 degrees F or below. A cool temperature stretches the life of the plant and its blooming time."

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Schuster said it is also important to avoid over- or under-watering. Over-watering causes the roots to rot off, thus shortening the blooming time as well as the life of the plant. Under-watering puts the plant under drought stress and also shortens the blooming time.

"Keep the soil moist without being set," he recommended. "There is no need to feed these potted bulbs. All the nutrients are already in the bulb, and the plants do not need supplement feeding."

For maximum effect, Schuster said, several pots should be grouped together.

"Use the colors of the flowers to complement or even to contrast with each other," he said. "This makes a statement that is entirely yours. Either way can be fun. Potted flowering bulbs can help lift some of the drab of winter and bring spring a little early to your home."

[University of Illinois news release]

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