How to Grow: Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Learn how to select and force spring flowering bulbs indoors in winter.

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Flower Bulb, Daffodils, Plant, Spring FlowerForcing bulbs into bloom indoors just doesn’t sound humane or natural, but we love to do it. There’s nothing like a fragrant hyacinth, colorful tulip or cheery daffodil blooming on our kitchen table, while it continues to snow outside. But while Santa may grace your holiday stocking with some bulbs for forcing, you have to do it right to get the results you want.

Flowering bulbs are dug from fields in late summer and sold in fall. They all need a cold period of dormancy before they can flower. If you plant them in the ground, they naturally get their required chill time. If you’re trying to force them into bloom indoors, they still need chilling. Improperly chilled bulbs will either not flower or flower poorly. The one exception is paperwhite narcissus. These don’t need chilling. For all other bulbs, here’s what to do.

Pot your hyacinths, crocus, tulips and other bulbs in a container filled with moistened potting soil. Tuck them in tight so you really get a bold, flowering event. Water well and then store the pot in a 40F to 45F degree room for 12 weeks. After 3 months bring them into a warm, sunny room and they should flower in 3 weeks. So realistically, bulbs you start now won’t flower until April. To shorten the time, look for pre-chilled bulbs. These bulbs have had some of their dormant period met already and only need 4 to 6 weeks of chilling. Once forced bulbs are finished blooming, compost them. Most won’t have enough energy to reflower if planted in the garden. The exception are daffodils that might be worth replanting.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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