Q -- I have a potted yellow daffodil that I received. My dilemma is that I know nothing about them. I don't know how much water to give. I know they are perennials and want to plant them outside in a concrete pot I have but I don't know if it is warm enough. It has been in the 60's for the past week but the last 2 days have been a high of about 40. They are beautiful and I want them to be able to come up again next year. Can you help? When do they usually bloom? Is it safe to transplant them outside since they have already bloomed? Please help me keep them pretty!
A -- Potted hardy bulbs that have been forced for indoor display are worth saving and planting outside, in most cases. Daffodils, narcissus, crocus, grape hyacinths and many others will transplant beautifully to the garden. Tulips are often a waste of time, but it is worth trying them since you can always dig them up and discard in a year or two if they don't do anything.
After you have enjoyed the flowers inside, place the pots of bulbs outside during the daytime. Bring inside at night (or in the day) if the temperatures are going to dip below freezing. Water them regularly, which means probably every two to three days for small pots, a couple of times a week for larger ones. It does not hurt to use a liquid fertilizer on them every two weeks. The plants are storing energy in the bulbs for next year, so this is a time when they need plenty of food and sunlight.
Allow the foliage to die back naturally. The leaves of potted bulbs usually die off completely by about mid June or so. At that time you should remove the bulbs from the pots and do one of two things: either plant them in the garden immediately, or store them in a cardboard box in the garden shed until September, then plant them. Some gardeners also will simply remove them from the pot and plant the whole rootball of bulbs in the ground while they still have foliage. You would want to wait until mid to late April in most regions to do this, so the foliage does not freeze back. I like to remove the bulbs from the pots in order to space them further apart in the garden, since there are usually a lot of bulbs crammed into those pots, and they are a little bit too close together.
Next spring your bulbs may not flower as well as they did in the house. This is not a cause for alarm. "Forcing" them in pots is exhausting to the bulbs, and it may take a couple of years for them to recover and start to flower in a normal way. Choose a site in the garden that receives plenty of sun in the spring. Shade through the summer is fine, since the bulbs usually go dormant before then anyhow.