Forcing spring bulbs is easy; it just takes a little planning to have blooming color through the winter months.
Most spring bulbs need a chilling period to complete the natural cycle that makes them bloom. That cycle is the reason spring bulbs are planted in the fall. The cool wet soil and air temperature is the natural chill needed.
Pretend it’s spring! To coax bulbs into early bloom indoors, mimic that cooling period. Most bulbs need a chill for 10 to 16 weeks (depending on the type of bulb.) Following suggested chilling time, bulbs can be planted in September for January blooms, October for February and so on. The temperature for proper chilling needs to be 35 to 50 degrees. An unheated garage or spare refrigerator works well. When shoots emerge and the proper time has been met, place the potted bulbs in a warm sunny window. The warmth will force them into bloom quickly. Plant up a few pots and varieties and stage them to stagger blooms for a longer season of color. After the flowers have finished, most can be planted outdoors if they are hardy. Cut off the faded flowers stalks and keep the leaves on. Continue watering until the outdoor weather warms, then plant them outside. The forcing of bulbs sometimes simply exhausts the bulbs and they will not re-bloom. Hardier bulbs like tulips and daffodils may recover after a few seasons.
Specialty Bulbs for Holiday Color:
A delicate fragrant indoor blossom that is classic for Christmas decorating. Paperwhites do not need a cooling period as most spring bulbs do to bloom indoors.
4 to 6 inch round, 4 inch deep pot
Use terra-cotta or any decorative pot; just make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom.
3 to 5 Paperwhite bulbs (a more common variety is sold as Paperwhite “Ziva”)
Choose bulbs that are firm, with rich brown outside layers. A bit of green bud showing is fine.
White small cut rock chips
Or show a little creativity and use beach glass, marbles or anything that will hold the bulbs upright in the pot.
In the bottom of the pot, place two inches of white rock. Set the bulbs firmly on top of the rock, roots down and stems facing up. In a 4 inch pot place 3 bulbs, in a 6 inch pot use 5 bulbs. Loosely fill the pot with remaining white rock, to the rim. About half of the bulb will be exposed. Water well and place in a warm dark area or away from direct sunlight until green shoots emerge 2 to 4 inches. Bring the pot into a sunny spot and keep even watering. Do not over-water.
Paperwhite flowers will bloom in 6 to 8 weeks. Keep blooming plants away from heat sources. The blooms will last longer is kept in a cooler spot of the home.
Intensely fragrant and colorful, hyacinth force will in water
A glass vase with a smaller neck that allows the bulb to sit in just at the water line.
Pre-Chilled Hyacinth Bulb
Fill the glass vase up to the neck with clean water. Place bulb in the vase. The base of the bulb should barely touch the water level. Place the vase in a cool dark place until roots begin to grow. Check water level and maintain the correct level so roots can grow into it. When the roots are full and the stalk is a couple of inches high, move the vase to a sunnier spot. Pre-chilled hyacinth blooms typically bloom in 6 to 8 weeks. As with all indoor blooming bulbs keep away from direct heat sources and in cooler temperatures to insure long bloom time.
Large bulbs and large showy blooms perfect for Christmas decor.
6 inch pot at least 6 inches deep
Pebbles, pea gravel or small rock chips.
Start the bulbs in a pot that is only slightly larger than the bulb. They do better in tight quarters and need a good stable base. Place pebbles in the bottom 1 inch of the pot. Place approximately 2 inches of soil in the pot. Firmly place the bulb on top of the soil. Add more soil or take away soil under the bulb so that about 1/3 rd of the bulb is showing. Water thoroughly and place in a warm spot. Keep the soil barely moist until growth begins then water regularly. Amaryllis usually bloom 4 weeks after planting depending on the variety.