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RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011—(MCT)—Those foil-wrapped potted tulips, daffodils and hyacinths sold at supermarkets, garden or home centers, farmers markets and other retailers are perfect for outdoor planting, just like bedding plants. They are a great way to dress up your deck, patio or porch in planters that say spring is near, if not here.

“It’s true, once spring temperatures stay above freezing, nursery pots of spring bulb flowers can be used indoors or out. Just slip them out of their plastic pots, then plant them outdoors into the garden or containers,” says Sally Ferguson, director of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in Danby, V.T.

What about sudden cold snaps?

No worries, says Ferguson, “Mother Nature programs flower bulbs to handle erratic springtime temperatures, even snow.” Before planting nursery plants outdoors, she says, briefly acclimate them to colder temperatures. One night in a cold but protected porch, garage, or other cold area will help toughen them up. Once settled outside in garden beds or containers, young bulb plants and buds can ride out light frosts, though fully-open flowers and leaf tips may get the equivalent of freezer burn.

Tips for planting instant spring in the garden

Anticipate spring. Once the weather turns and daffodils start coming up in local gardens, bulb bedding plant season has begun. When planted outdoors, potted bulbs can last for weeks, even a month, when spring weather is still quite cool overall.

Buy green and watch them grow. For longest enjoyment, choose potted bulbs with tight green buds, not those already in full bloom. Any of the potted hardy spring bulbs are candidates for outdoor planting in spring, including tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses and more. All are widely available from floral retailers this time of year.

Acclimate to cold. Once home, water the pots well, then place them in a cold but protected area (above freezing) overnight so they can acclimate to colder temperatures before you plant them outside. Slip off the plastic pot and plant the whole works into the garden or in large containers, just as you would flats of petunias or impatiens in early summer. If planting in outdoor containers, bulbs will be better insulated from any late winter freezes in larger containers.

Consider fragrance. Remember that color is only part of the story—many spring bloomers are fragrant, as well. Hyacinths are especially welcome near doorways, placed there to delight those coming or going.

Gift of spring. When visiting friends or family, bring along a gift pot of daffodils or hyacinths plus a trowel. They are even great gifts and take-home treats for kids’ birthday parties. After all, it’s the next generation that will soon be taking care of Mother Nature.

(c) 2011, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.