Forcing Bulbs How To Guide

Forcing Bulbs Caption

These bulbs are just about ready to be popped into a small container. Photo Credit: Flickr

Shakespeare may have best described the feelings of gardeners in areas where winter means cold, snow and dormant plants, but that “discontent” you feel can be remedied with brightly colored flowers.  Forced spring bulbs are a great way to bring a little bit of the garden indoors with very little effort – by the time these long-lasting bloomers are spent, you’ll already be working on raising seedlings for the spring.  Your winter problems have been solved!

Before you rush out to buy some spring bulbs, read this handy guide to forcing them to bloom before their outdoor counterparts.  It’s a simple DIY project, but requires some preparation and planning.

Forcing Bulbs

Winter and fall indoor gardening tips are usually centered around getting your plants ready to rest for the winter – forcing bulbs is a completely different situation.  Although you must induce a short dormancy to make it happen, what you’re really doing is getting your plants ready for their grand appearance.  Several different species of plants are suitable for forcing, but the easiest for beginners are tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinth.

You’ll need to prepare a well-draining pot full of sterile potting soil that will fit inside your refrigerator or other cool space.  Fill it about 2/3 of the way full before placing your bulbs inside, leaving a gap between each bulb.  Container gardening can be messy, so when you cover your bulbs, leave an inch or two of space between the rim of the pot and the top of the soil to help keep your fridge clean.

When you pot your bulbs is as important as how you do it – the timing will affect when blooms appear.  It takes 10 to 12 weeks of constant temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate flower production.  Refrigerators are ideal, but if your garage or basement remains in this temperature range all winter these locations are great alternatives, especially if you’re using a larger container.

Bulb....Photo Credit: Flickr

Sweet-talk bulbs into blooming early, indoors, then transfer to exterior flower window boxes. Photo Credit: Flickr

Getting Creative with Out of Season Color

Although you can certainly put your bulbs in a bland plastic or terra cotta pot, placing them in a designer container will add another dimension of color and texture to your arrangement.  Planters made with natural materials might be more appropriate for cabins and rustic-style homes, or you might choose a window box for bulbs you’d prefer to show off on the outside of your cottage.

No matter what style of container best fits your home, you’ll need to plant your bulbs in it before chilling them to give the plants plenty of time to develop a healthy root system.  If you’re planning on moving your blooming plants outdoors, wait until all risk of frost has passed or bring them inside at night.

2 replies
  1. Adem
    Adem says:

    I have read your article. I think overall your article good, but you should add about their food and water information that how much you give food and water to them?

    • Lindsey Pfeiffer
      Lindsey Pfeiffer says:

      Thanks for your comment! Hopefully this helps:

      Bulbs do not need to be fertilized in order to grow. And surprisingly they only need a little bit of water to initiate growing. Make sure that once you have your bulbs in the container in which it will be chilled in, that the top tips are exposed from the soil. You’ll need to water these bulbs once they have been placed in soil but just enough to moisten the soil and allow excess water to drain. Once they are being chilled, water if you find that the soil is almost completely dry. When they are done being chilled, move them to an area in the house that doesn’t get direct sunlight and water them thoroughly just once. Once you see new growth, you can move them to a sunnier area in the home.


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