Cultivating Winter Tulips

From January to April, tulips are one of the season's best buys, indoors and out.

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Invest smart. Buying a tulip bulb at the right time is crucial, says Frans Roozen, Technical Director of the International Flower Bulb Center in Hillegom, Holland. Select bulbs, he says, with shoots already "up" and buds fully formed (but not yet flowering) to enjoy the longest bloom time.

Color mania. Select colors that make your heart sing. Then try something new! Tulips come in bright yellows, whites, purples and all shades of red. They can be tulip shaped or not; ruffled on the edges or pointed. Flamed and multicolored tulips look great mixed with solid colors in coordinated shades.

Repot; replant. Potted tulips are usually sold in plastic nursery pots so feel free to repot. Choose a new pot with a drainage hole and saucer to collect the draining water. Then gently remove the plant and soil from its nursery pot and repot.

Double pots. If you prefer to "double pot," set the existing potted plant "as is" inside a slightly larger, more decorative pot, or "cachepot." If the nursery pot has a hole for drainage, the cachepot won't need one.

Thirst quenchers. Water as needed, keeping the soil moist but not soggy.

Water with care. Use only tepid rainwater or distilled water to avoid chemical buildup that can shock and damage plants.

Toughening up. If outdoor temperatures are still near freezing in your area, it's good to acclimate the potted bulbs by placing them for a few days in an unheated but protected spot; this will toughen them up before being planted outdoors. Once planted, acclimated forced bulbs can survive even sudden snowstorms.

Warming tricks. If you choose to plant outdoors, note that larger containers help insulate the bulbs from freezing.

Color plays. For visual pizzazz, group pots of one flower color together, or experiment with contrasting colors.

Surprise someone! When visiting friends or family this winter, bring along a pot of tulip bulbs (or amaryllises and paperwhites) and a trowel. Scope out in advance a needy plot of earth near the front door and then tuck the colorful little fellows in. Leave a note with instructions to "water well." It's a gift that will keep on growing!

Courtesy of Right@Home™

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