Force Bulbs

If you are looking for a way to fulfill your need to garden when knee deep in winter snow, forcing bulbs will give you a little bit of springtime with very little effort


Forcing bulbs is a pretty easy way to satiate a need to garden and will help chase away the winter blues that begins to set in come January.  Once you get the hang of it, you can even do some pretty elaborate indoor growing and keep the blooms coming steadily through winter.  But first things first, start simple.

The absolute easiest way to force bulbs is to purchase a kit or pot of planted bulbs ready to bloom.  All you will have to do is keep it in a sunny window and water it.  If the bulbs needed pre-chilling to force the blooms, that has already been done.  A colorful and interesting combination of bulbs will have been chosen.

forced paperwhites.gif

Also VERY easy, is forcing bulbs from zones 8 and 9 that do not require any chilling period to bloom.  You may grow them in water with any container you like.  Amaryllis and Paper White Narcissus are the most commonly forced bulbs not only because they are so easy, but also because they are so beautiful.  Amaryllis is available in many stunning colors, with double or single blooms.  They can be very bold or dramatic with large blooms in striking colors.  Paperwhites are wonderfully fragrant with strong spiky foliage and beautiful white blooms.  You can also try hyacinth and crocus or even daffodils and early tulips with this method, they are also very easy to force

  • First, purchase only top quality good size bulbs, never buy them if they are soft or sprouting.  Bulbs appropriate for forcing will be in the garden stores from about September to December, or they can be mail ordered in August.  It will take 12 - 15 weeks for your bulbs to bloom.
  • Use any container you choose, but consider the following:  Clear glass will allow you to see and maintain the water level appropriately;  Clear glass will also allow you to see decorative rocks and the roots, which can actually be quite lovely;  A wide base will allow you to plant several bulbs.  There are also special vases made to water force hyacinth with a narrow neck and then a wide top to hold the bulb.  These make it very easy, but the expense is certainly unnecessary.
  • Fill the container a few inches or up to half way with pebbles, gravel, decorative rocks, marbles, or glass beads.  Place the bulbs on top of the rocks and press in just enough so the bulbs stay in place.  Fill the container with water only UP TO but not touching the bottom of the bulbs.  If the bulb is in the water it will rot.
  • Place the container in a cool dark place for 5 or 6 weeks, under 50 degrees if you have a place that cool.  The bulbs will flower better and have stronger stems if allowed to develop roots before being placed in a sunny window.
  • Place the container in a sunny window and wait for your blooms.  If the bulb receives good light but not direct sunlight, the blooms should last longer.  Maintain the water level close up to the bulb as the roots begin to grow.

Bulbs that are forced, expecially in water, will generally not rebloom even if potted or planted in the garden next season.  Just consider them your winter annuals!

Sharon Dwyer