Bulbs growing in pots

How to force bulbs indoors

Forcing flower bulbs indoors is a great way to enjoy beautiful flowers during the cold months.  Early flowering spring bulbs are easy to bloom indoors.  Some flower bulbs that are easy to force are as follows: Grape hyacinths, Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Paperwhites.  Suppliers that sell bulbs will often list in their catalogs which species are best for forcing, including the number of weeks it will take for the bulb to bloom.

There are several ways to force bulbs to grow indoors.  Start with a dormant bulb.  Most bulbs require chilling before being forced; you need to “trick” the bulb by giving it a cold period.   The chilling period is a natural process a bulb would experience being in the cold ground throughout winter.  Without this cold period, your bulbs may not flower properly.

To prechill hyacinths and daffodils bulbs, place them in a paper bag and put them in a refrigerator at 35 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-13 weeks.  Paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs do not require a chilling period.

You can use a special bulb-forcing jar or an ordinary floral vase or set the bulb on a wire grid in a glass or jar.  Fill the jar with water touching below the bottom of the bulb.  Once you see the roots, keep the water line below the bulb to prevent rotting or molding.  Place the jar in a cool, dark area for a few days until roots form, and there is an inch or two of leaf growth.  Move it into a bright spot with temperatures between 60 and70 degrees Fahrenheit.  

A little sun in the morning or evening is beneficial, but avoid direct sunlight from a south window, or water in the vase will get too hot, and your buds may wither and dry up before they bloom.

Rotate the vase a quarter turn every day to keep the plant growing straight.  You may need to top off the water in the vase if it evaporates over time, still keeping the water level just below the bottom of the bulb.  You can only use the bulbs for one season because they deplete their nutrients.  If you decide to plant the bulbs outdoors, they may grow after several years of recuperating.

Another alternative method is to use inexpensive clay pots and fill the pot with a soil mix.  Use one part of ordinary garden soil to one part of peat moss.  Pack the soil mix gently around the bulb with the tip of the bulb showing.  Check to make sure the soil doesn’t go over the rim of the bulb.  Water the bulbs well and enjoy your early spring.

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