As the experienced gardener knows, not all plants start out as a cutting or a sprout that you buy from your neighborhood nursery, nor do they just begin as a small seed. Many plants begin as a bulb.
Some planning is required when it comes to plants that begin as bulbs.
Perhaps the first question in the mind of a novice gardener who is dealing with bulbs for the first time is: “How long does it take for a bulb to sprout?”
That depends on their pre-chilling requirements and the hardiness plant zone in which you live. Bulbs bought in nurseries commonly have a guide on when and how to plant. When purchasing bulbs ask if they are summer or spring blooming. The answer will tell you when to plant them and when they will sprout.
How Long Does It Take For Bulbs To Sprout?
If your nursery adviser answers this question by saying, “It’s a spring bulb,” then the best time to plant is in October. This allows the bulb to experience a chilling period of 12 to 15 weeks. That is essential for the bulbs to sprout.
Spring bulb flowers need to experience temperatures of 35°F to 45°F for up to 15 weeks. The actual time when the bulb will bloom then varies by species.
Tulips require 10 to 16 weeks of chilling and will sprout one to three weeks later. Crocus and grape hyacinth need eight to 15 weeks of chilling and daffodils require 12 to 15. Snowdrops require 15 full weeks of chilling and then bloom two weeks later. Iris and hyacinths need 13 to 15 weeks of chilling and then will start to sprout one to two weeks later.
You can purchase bulbs from the nursery that have been pre-chilled or you can chill them yourself through winter in your vegetable crisper. Allow the proper number of weeks and keep them away from ripening fruits like apples and tomatoes.
There are two methods of growing bulb plants indoors to assure an earlier bloom. The first is to plant the bulb in a pot that is twice as deep as the bulb in a soilless mixture. The mixture helps to prevent rot, which is a common problem when planting bulbs in a container. The second method is to plant the bulb without soil on a 2- to 3-inch layer of glass beads or rocks. Include only enough water to reach the very bottom of the bulb.
How Long Does It Take For Flower Bulbs To Bloom?
The time to flowering depends on such factors as adequate watering, lighting, soil type, and heat. Commonly, spring bulbs will begin to flower very quickly after the chilling period and warm temperatures arrive to remove dormancy. Flowers usually appear two to three weeks after chilling and about a week or so after they sprout. The process is very fast, but most spring bloomers last a long time and offer color for a week or more.
There are bulbs that don’t need a chill period. These include paperwhite, amaryllis and freesia. These bulbs are ideal for gardeners who forget to plant their spring bulbs and can grow easily indoors or outdoors once the danger of frost has passed.