How To Force Bulbs for Winter Blooms

Adding a pop of color and “life” to your home in the winter can be as easy as growing a few pretty plants. In fact, last week I posted pics of my paperwhites. There was some interest in having me share a tutorial on how to grow them, so I’m excited to share this with you!

Forcing paperwhite bulbs

It took about two weeks to grow these pretties on the right.

While I’m currently growing paperwhites, there are tons of other options to choose from. I’m talking amaryllis, hyacinths, crocus and even daffodils. {Hello, little bundles of spring.}

BlueGrapeHyacinth

Blue Grape Hyacinths

DoubleDaff

Double Daffodils

Crocus

Crocus

The cool thing about growing these flowers indoors is you get to observe them up close as they bloom. Cool thing number two is that it’s super simple to do. There are a few tricks of the trade I’ve learned from my Master Gardener mom, whom we lovingly call Mimi. So I’ll share a few of Mimi’s magic tips to ensure you can force bulbs like a champ.

How to Choose the Right Bulbs

Any garden store should have bulbs this time of year. I shop at Westwood Gardens because they are incredibly helpful and general superstars.

Tip: When shopping, be sure to choose bulbs that are plump and firm.

Most bulbs will need a rooting period of 12-15 weeks. This means storing them in a mesh or paper bag in a cool place (like your refrigerator or cold garage). This is called prechilling. Many of the bulbs for sale right now have already been prepared for forcing. So you can head straight to the directions below. Be sure to check, though.

What You’ll Need

Gardening Supplies

The line up: A container (vase or flower pot), soil or rocks, flower bulbs and water

Two Ways to Plant and Grow

{ONE} Force Bulbs in Water

Any tall, narrow vase will be great. You don’t have to have a special forcing vase to make this work.

Planting Bulbs in Water

I like using a tall, clear vase so I can watch the roots grow. Also, the sides of the vase serve as natural “stakes” for the plant as it grows.

Three simple steps:

  1. Fill your container with rocks or pebbles. You only need to fill about 3-4 inches.
  2. Add water right up to the top of the rocks.
  3. Tuck your bulbs down in the rocks. Plant as many as your container will hold. They can even be touching.

Tip: You only want to cover the root portion so the bulb doesn’t rot in the water.

{TWO} Force Bulbs in Soil

You can either use a vase or regular gardening pot. I’m planting crocus, which don’t grow very tall, so I’m going with this lovely white pot.Planting in SoilThree simple steps:

  1. Fill your container with soil. I like to pre-wet the soil a bit so it’s not as messy when you add water at the end.
  2. Plant your bulbs about halfway into the soil. Part of the bulb will be visible.
  3. Water the bulbs and keep the soil moist as they grow.

More Helpful Tips

Nurturing Your Plant Babies

There really isn’t much to do once your bulbs have been planted, other than watching the water levels and replenishing, as needed. Just sit back and watch your babies grow! The average growing rate will vary, but here’s a rough guide based on planting pre-chilled bulbs.

Plant Chart

Compliments of The Neat Nook

Keeping them Tall and Proud

Even though I grew my paperwhites in tall vases, they still toppled over a bit because their stems are so “leggy” as Mimi calls them. Here’s a pretty way to handle this situation. Gather the stems and secure with a ribbon.

Paperwhite Stake with Ribbon

I chose a sheer ribbon since it’s so delicate – like the flowers.

Tip: The tighter the ribbon, the more secure the stems will be.

If the stems are still toppling over, add a bamboo stick or even a nice-looking stick from your yard for added support. Tuck it all the way down into your rocks or soil to keep it sturdy. Then tie a pretty ribbon around the entire thing.

After the Bloom

Once your bulbs have finished blooming, it’s not time to be sad. You can cut off the flowers at the base and store the bulbs in a cool, dry location until spring. If you’ve planted in soil, you can keep them right in the container. Once spring hits, you can plant them outside.

I hope you’ll try this at home. If you do, be sure to take lots of pictures. Maybe we can create our own little community garden on Instagram this way? I’m @Katejandersen on both Instagram and Twitter.

Happy planting!

-Kate

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4 comments on “How To Force Bulbs for Winter Blooms

  1. I love bulbs! They make me so happy in the spring. I live in northern California and the ground doesn’t freeze here. Your blog just gave me the wonderful idea to put flowering bulbs on MY Christmas list…a gift that keeps on giving. I can plant them in the garden with kids during their winter break and then in spring we can all enjoy them again.

    • Hi, Ovey! I always think of you when I plant bulbs. They make me think of the tulips you brought back from Holland. I believe they were left back in the ground in Kansas City when we moved? Anyway, yes, they make great gifts and are fun to watch grow. Hugs to you, my friend!

    • For flowers that bloom in the spring, such as tulips and daffodils, they’re better planted in the late fall or early winter so they get a long period of cool temps that help them flower. If you missed your window of time, or want to force them indoors, just be sure to chill your bulbs in the refrigerator for several weeks. I hope that helps. Happy growing!!

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