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Forcing Bulbs for Winter Beauty

Carol Siddall Master Gardener

In the middle of winter, a few spring blooming flowers can put a smile on everyone's face.  Now is the time to start forcing those bulbs.

Choose a bulb that is forcing-friendly like grape hyacinths, daffodils and hyacinths.  Bulb sellers will often note which bulbs are best for forcing.  Check the number of weeks needed from planting until bloom before you buy or order.

Spring blooming bulbs need a chilling time so they will form flower buds.  You can order them pre chilled or you can chill them.  I chill mine in the refrigerator (don't freeze them).  It may take 10 to 18 weeks depending on your bulb you want to force.  If you do chill in the refrigerator, put them in the crisper drawer making sure there is no ripening fruit, especially apples.

One of the easiest ways to force bulbs is in water.  You don't need to buy a bulb forcing jar, many common floral vases will keep the bulb out of the water.  Fill the vase with water to just touching the base of the bulb.  That little bit of moisture will start the roots forming.  When they begin growing into the vase, keep the water line below the bulb to prevent rotting or molding.  Keep the vase in a cool dark spot for a few days while the roots are forming.  A little sun is good, but avoid direct sunlight.  You may want to rotate your vase 1/4 turn each day to keep the plant growing straight.

nce it is blooming, your flowers will last longer if you can keep them around 60 degrees.  No need to fertilize, just make sure the roots are always in water (not the bulb itself).  After the blooms are gone, plant it in a sunny spot in the garden so it can grow next year.  Add some fertilizer when planting.  But beware, the first year they return, the plants may not be as vigorous.

This is a fun thing to do with your children or grandchildren.  They love seeing the bulbs put on the roots and then blooming, and you will enjoy those blooms on a dark winter day.


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