Forcing Bulbs


When winter is dark and dreary, it can seem like spring will never get here.  You can fight the late-winter blues with the bright colors and sweet scents of traditional spring flower bulbs, but you need to start now – bulbs prepared in September-October will be ready to flower inside in January or February.

How to force bulbs for early indoor bloom:

1. Select a pot that is 2-3″ deeper than the bulbs you are forcing. Fill bottom 1/3 of the pot with a good quality potting soil.

2. Set the bulbs into the soil, deep enough that the tips are just at or slightly below the rim of the pot.  Bulbs should be clustered densely to almost touching.

3. Fill potting soil around the bulbs.  Do not cover completely like you would in the ground, just up around the necks of the bulbs, leaving the tips showing; water to moisten and settle the soil.

4. Chill.  Potted bulbs can be chilled in the refrigerator, but need to be isolated from fresh fruit – fruits give off ethylene, which can kill your bulbs.  In our area, bulbs can also be chilled outside – just make sure they don’t drown, and if we have a severe cold spell insulate the pots with straw or leaves (or bring in to a cool garage or shed for a few days until the weather breaks.

During chilling, the bulbs do not need light, but check periodically for moisture; don’t let them dry out, but don’t keep them soaking wet either.

5. After 12 weeks of chilling, your bulbs are ready to come inside to grow and bloom.  Start them in indirect light – when they are an inch or two tall, move to brighter light to keep them more compact.  They should bloom 2-3 weeks after being brought in to indoor temperatures.

Bulbs that force well:

* Note that a few types of bulbs do not require chilling to bloom inside.  Paperwhites bloom 4-5 weeks after planting, and Amaryllis bloom 6-8 weeks after planting, without any cold period to prepare them.