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It’s a bit sad when the lilies drop their final petals, the hosta leaves start to brown, and it’s time to deadhead the last double rudbeckia. One of the ways I cheer myself up is by firing up my bulb-related ventures: I do both outdoor bulb planting and indoor bulb forcing. The outdoor part is mainly species tulips and hybrid tulips, planted in the ground and in large pots. The indoor forcing involves hyacinths, tazettas, and hybrid tulips. It requires a short and simple list of supplies: bulbs, soil, and pots. Not a heavy lift, right? Wrong.

Anyone looking for small pots at the end of the summer season is already swimming upstream, because most garden centers assume, reasonably, that the potting season is at an end. There were usually a few places, though, that would still have decent supplies of small to medium-sized ceramic pots. I like to force in these because they’re easy to move around and nice to give as gifts when the bulbs are ready to come out, conveniently near the holidays. But now there’s a new problem. Pot manufacturers and retailers have decided to go all-in for pots with no drainage. Instead of seeing, at most, a 50-50 split between the two types, the nondraining pots are creeping into the majority. Having seen how hyacinth roots work and having familiarity with rotten bulbs and roots, I’m sticking with traditional drainage holes at the bottom of any pot I use. (Nice little pots like the one at top are perfect for my needs.)

Wouldn’t the houseplant craze help with year-round small pot availability? After all, houseplants know no season. Not really. Either the pots sold at houseplant places are going for silly prices or these vendors, too, don’t find drainage necessary. Apparently, there’s now potting media that doesn’t need drainage. (I’ll let our houseplant ranter, Johanna address that one.) Looks like I’ll be driving all over Western New York pot-hunting. Ha. Much more difficult to get than the other kind.

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The pots sit in the root cellar for 8-12 weeks, depending on what’s in them.

An important heads-up: Due either to shortages mysteriously caused by the pandemic or the millions of new gardeners who are hopping on the bulb wagon, my favorite hyacinth supplier was sold out of every variety I usually get by mid-August. Larger companies also had a surprising amount of sold-out items, though these don’t even carry the unusual or heirloom types I look for. Buy your bulbs now!

And here’s another tip for those interested. I have found planting bulbs in large pots that get stored in an unheated garage or shed over the winter to be very rewarding and just may help with animal issues. This is a piece I wrote on it.

Elizabeth Licata is Editor-in-Chief of Buffalo Spree Magazine.

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