“Help: I forgot to plant bulbs last fall. They are still sitting in my basement, is there anything I can do?”
First, check each bulb to see if it is dead or alive. How to tell: bulbs that are soft and mushy are dead or dying. Healthy bulbs should be firm and hard.
If your bulbs are still alive, below are several things, depending on the time of year, that you can try.
Bulb rescue plan
If it’s late in the fall and the soil isn’t hard frozen yet and you still can dig, plant your bulbs and water them in very well.
However, if you forgot to plant bulbs and winter has started and the ground is frozen rock solid, plant them into containers, and water.
Keep the pots in an unheated spot (your attached garage might be perfect) where temperature stays around 40F (4-5C). You don’t want the bulb pots to freeze solid. Keep the bulbs in the cold for at least 12-14 weeks.
After that, you can either bring your pots indoors so the bulb plants can grow and bloom in the house. (This is called forcing.) Or, once the danger of frost is over, you can set your bulb pots outdoors and allow the plants to bloom in outdoor containers. You could even plant the contents of your pots right into your flower bed in early spring.
If it’s spring when you discover that you forgot to plant bulbs, you can plant them straight into the garden.
Do this only if they are firm and in good shape. They could live – you won’t know if you don’t plant them. If they are alive, they will produce only leaves this year, not flowers. The reason: they missed out on the period of cold dormancy that they need for root growth and flowering.
However, with leaf growth, the chances are good that they will recover and bloom in subsequent years.
More bulb information
How and when to plant spring bulbs
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