Indoor Cultivation Of Daffodils

There is no happier flower than the daffodil where it is given cool treatment. True, more forced daffodils are sold in the early new year than any other flower, forced that is in temperatures around 56° F., but it is only under cool conditions, where a temperature of between 40-48° F. is maintained to keep out frost and prevent mildew, that the daffodil reaches perfection. Under such conditions, the plants may receive that individual attention which each variety demands and it is only thus that the delicate whites and pinks and creams of the modern varieties can be seen at their best, shielded from soot deposits, soil splashings and strong winds. Indoor Cultivation Of Daffodils2

The daffodil is at its best under conditions somewhere between those required for the snowdrop and the tulip – a cold, damp atmosphere it does not enjoy, neither is it happy in considerable heat. Give them the temperature of a cool living-room or a slightly warmed greenhouse and the plants will bloom to perfection from February until late in April if varieties for successional flowering are selected. For home culture the bulbs are best planted in 48-size pots, four bulbs to each pot, or earthenware bowls are equally effective. A compost composed of a good fibrous loam to which is added a small quantity of peat and some coarse sand is ideal. As the bulbs have a tendency to rot off at the base, ample drainage must be provided.

Now comes the crucial point. More often than not, daffodil bulbs are then placed in a darkened cupboard in a room which is much too warm for them. For from twelve to sixteen weeks, absolutely cool conditions are essential from the time the bulbs are planted about the first week of September. It must be remembered that daffodils require a long period for the formation of their rooting system and while this is taking place ice-cold conditions are necessary. Where possible, the home grower should place the pots outdoors in a position away from the sunlight – or in a cellar will be almost as useful and there the bulbs must remain until they have rooted and made about two inches of top growth. This will mean taking them indoors from mid-December, depending upon the variety. All too frequently we are impatient and not only place the bulbs in too warm a room, but bring them from the darkness long before the bulbs are sufficiently well rooted, with the result that the foliage turns yellow and no bloom may appear.

When placing the pots outdoors, a covering of from 6-8 in. of ashes or soil is placed over them to keep them as dark as possible. Remember to plant the bulbs with the tops just above soil-level, but plant firmly. When growing for cut bloom, it is usual to use strong wooden boxes and to place the bulbs almost touching each other. The boxes are placed outdoors as described. As for watering, if the bulbs are watered at planting-time and placed in a cold, dark room, no further watering should be necessary. This again brings us to the folly of placing all newly planted bulbs in too warm a position while rooting, for the compost will dry out too quickly and serious damage may be done to the bulbs before the too-dry condition can be noticed. For those living in flats where space is restricted to the use of a cupboard or under the kitchen sink, the pots should be stood in deep boxes and around them should be packed peat, which should always be kept moist. More peat, too, should be used in the compost for this will also retain more moisture. Peat packed round the pots will keep the bulbs as cool as possible. A garage or garden shed is a far better place for rooting the bulbs than a room in the home.

Early in January, or for certain varieties just before Christmas, if a warm greenhouse is available, the soil or ashes are carefully shaken away and the pots or boxes are first placed in a position of partial shade – under a greenhouse bench or in a semi-darkened position in a living-room, where they remain for ten days to become accustomed to the additional light. The compost should be kept just moist and more water given as the bulbs are brought on either by the heat of the sun or from the artificial warmth of a room or greenhouse, As they reach flowering stage, almost copious amounts of water will be required.

The blooms should be supported by inserting thin sticks or canes around the pots or boxes as soon as the buds show the first signs of colour. Staking is essential for all but the dwarf-growing species, which must be an additional reason for using pots instead of bowls, which are often too shallow to permit efficient staking.

Where the blooms are to be cut they should be removed before being quite fully open and where they have to travel a distance for exhibition or sale, they should be allowed to stand in cold rainwater for a full twenty-four hours before packing. Flowers growing in the open and which are required in bloom at the earliest possible moment should be cut the moment the buds show colour and placed in water in a slightly warmed room or greenhouse where they will open in forty-eight hours with a saving of at least two to three days on the time taken if left to open outdoors. This may enable the bloom to be marketed on a Friday, which is the best selling day of the week, rather than on the Monday or Tuesday, which would otherwise have to be the case if the blooms were to be marketed while at their best.

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