You've raked up the fall leaves, mowed the grass one last time and tidied up the flower beds. As you're cleaning and putting away your tools for the season, you spy a bag of flower bulbs in the corner of the potting shed. Don't throw those bulbs away, even though frost may be just around the corner.
Plant as Soon as Possible
Plant the bulbs in the ground as long as it hasn't frozen yet. You may not get flowers because the bulbs won't go through their normal chilling and dormancy period, but they will sprout. Let the leaves grow until they are completely yellowed before you cut them back. The bulbs should flower the next year.
Force the Bulbs Then Plant Outside
Put the bulbs in a paper bag and put in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Remove any fruit from the crisper, as the ethylene gas given off by ripening fruit hinders germination in the bulbs. Leave the bulbs in the fridge for eight to 12 weeks. Plant in pots and place in a cool part of the house. When you see the green tips of the sprouts, move the pots near a sunny window. Plant outside as soon as the same type of bulb is sprouting, or leave in the pots to bloom inside.
Grow in Water
Place the bulbs in water if the bulb has already started to sprout. Put 3 inches of pebbles in a glass. Put the bulb on top of the pebbles, and then fill around the bulb with more pebbles. Add water to reach the bottom of the bulb.
If your winters are cold but not frigid, say zone 6 or 7, you may be able to plant the bulbs in a cold frame. A cold frame is a box with the bottom open to the soil and covered by a glass or plastic top. The temperature inside the cold frame is from 5 to 10 degrees F warmer than outside temperatures. Plant the bulbs in pots of soil. Bury the pots in the ground in the cold frame. Cover with straw or shredded newspapers. When the bulbs sprout, move them to the flower garden if the temperature is above freezing.
Since summer bulbs are planted when all danger of frost is past, you don't have to worry about the ground being frozen. Summer bulbs may be planted several weeks later than their normal planting time without too many adverse effects. They may be somewhat stunted that first year or not bloom very vigorously. Add some extra mulch to retain moisture and keep the bulb cooler.