Hydroponic Tulips

Rooting bulbs in the refrigerator . . . has worked well for me, though rather messily, and I feel you need a second refrigerator.
~ Thalassa Cruso, Making Things Grow: A Practical Guide for the Indoor Gardener

Thalassa Cruso was known as the Julia Child of horticulture. Her ascerbic wit and unpredictable manner made her PBS show Making Things Grow a hit within seven months after it went on the air. The American Botanical Council referred to her as an unofficial custodian of the public horticultural trust.

So what would Thalassa have to say about refrigerator rooting tulips for hydroponic production? She'd be ecstatic!

According to the 2002 issue of the horticultural trade magazine Flower Tech, the success of hydroponic production of tulips in the Netherlands has gone through the roof. From virtually nil in 1997 to 40% in 2001, it was predicted at that time that hydroponic production of tulips would rise to 90% by last year.

So having dinner with a friend of mine last night we came up with our own version of refrigerator rooting tulips for hydroponic production.

  1. I purchased 'Apricot Beauty' and 'Queen of Night" on sale at our local home store since I heard these varieties worked well for forcing. Some cultivars are not suitable for hydroponic production though. Whether either of these is on the list I'm not sure. Time will tell.

  2. I purchased eggs in a clear plastic egg carton, putting the eggs in an empty cardboard carton I had sitting around. Special bulb holders called Hydro Trays have been developed for use in the Netherlands that have projections or pins to hold the bulbs in place in the trays. This plastic egg carton seemed a good substitute for the Hydro Trays.

  3. I put a little pea gravel in the base of each cell in the egg carton to hold the bulbs up off the bottom surface. Then I put 12 bulbs on top of the pea gravel and set them in the back of the refrigerator (away from fruit) to break dormancy. ~A pan of bulbs alongside peas and meat has, in some way, a curious psychological impact. Thalassa Cruso
  4. Water will be added in a few days and the bulbs will remain in the refrigerator until they produce roots of about 1 1/2 " long. The roots only need to be long enough to take up water. This process will take about 3 weeks, maybe less.

  5. At this point the bulbs will be brought out of the refrigerator and transferred to decorative glass vases and propped up with river rock. The vases will be filled with water up to the roots and placed in a warm location.

In 1968 Time magazine said Thalassa could make the most mundane chores seem like "an adventure in the bush country". Like Thalassa and my friend Alice T.A. Quackenbush, I garden for the adventure of it. We three are cut from the same gardening cloth. So whether or not I'll be joining Dutch cultivators in celebrating hydroponic tulips remains to be seen. It's the adventure I'm after.


  1. I'm responding to your request on the Yuku group for feedback.
    If you're not listed on the Blogroll by Region, shoot me an email - susan@sustainable-gardening.com. I'll give more feedback in response. Susan

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