Forcing Flower Bulbs 101

Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy blooming tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths this winter? It's easy to trick flower bulbs into thinking that it's spring even when the outside temperatures are below zero! Here's how.

  1. Select the bulbs. Choose only the largest, top quality bulbs available. They will produce the best flowers. The bulb boxes have a symbol that says, "Ideal for indoor forcing." These varieties are easy to force. Bulbs arrive at the garden center in early September, so purchase bulbs early for the best selection.
  2. Plant the bulbs in containers. Any type of container will work well for planting bulbs as long as it has good drainage. A 6-8" pot will hold approximately 3 hyacinths, 6 miniature narcissus, or 15 crocuses. Use a professional potting soil that has been wet down with water. The soil should be moist, but not soggy. Fill the container so that when the bulb is placed on top of the soil, the tip of the bulb is level with the rim of the container. If you are planting tulips, face the flat side of the bulb facing the container. This is where a large leaf develops. Put potting soil on top of the bulbs, being careful not to change their positions. Water the soil. The soil will settle which will allow for convenient watering later. Label the container with the bulb variety, date planted and date to bring inside.
  3. Allow the bulbs to cool. The bulbs must go through a dormant period in order to bloom. Most bulbs require a minimum of 12 weeks of dormancy. For example, bulbs planted in October will bloom in January. Tulips require 14 or more weeks. Bulbs need to be stored in a place where temperatures can be kept at 35 - 50 degrees. Bulbs must be kept from freezing. An unheated basement or an old refrigerator are ideal places to cool bulbs.
  4. Bring the bulbs into light and warmth. Once the bulbs have cooled, they need to be brought into warmer temperatures. It will take the bulbs approximately 3-4 weeks to bloom. For example, if bulbs were planted October 1st, they should be brought in around Christmas. Place the container in a cool room (60 degrees is best) with bright light. Rotate the pot often for even growth development. Water the plant, keeping the soil moist, but not wet. You can add a layer of green sheet moss on top of the soil for a more attractive appearance. For prolonged blooms, remove the container from the direct sun once the flowers open. Most bulbs should be discarded after forcing.

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