Forcing Your Spring Bulbs for Winter Bloom

Spring flowers can brighten the dreariest of winters when those forced bulbs bloom and give you a show of Spring indoors. Forcing bulbs is a simple process that can lead to enduring enjoyment.

Forcing Bulbs

October is the time of the year to begin potting your favorite spring bulbs to prepare them for winter flowering. Tulips, narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, scillas, grape hyacinths, and lily of the valley can be forced into flower in late winter and early spring.

Here's the deal: Bulbs that grow indoors sometimes need a reminder that they've been through winter—however fake it is. In fact, all bulbs except amaryllis and paper whites need a cold snap. What makes those two different? They don't get cold at home in their native tropics, so they don't need winter wherever you live. For other flower bulbs, though, you'll have to chill them a little to get them to bloom inside; just how long depends on the bulb. Generally:

  • Chill in September, bloom in January
  • Chill in October, bloom in February
  • Chill in November, bloom in March
  • Chill in December, bloom in April

To Force - simply store in the refridgerator

*Note: Be careful not to be put next to apples in fridge, because the gases the apples give off and your bulbs won’t bloom.

List of Bulbs: Chill and Bloom Time

Forcing Bulbs
  • Amaryllis
    • Chill time: None
    • Bloom time: 6-8 weeks
  • Crocus
    • Chill time: 8-15 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling
  • Daffodil
    • Chill time: 2-3 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling
  • Grape hyacinth
    • Chill time: 8-15 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling
  • Hyacinth
    • Chill time: 12-15 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling
  • Iris
    • Chill time: 13-15 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling
  • Paper whites
    • Chill time: None
    • Bloom time: 3-5 weeks
  • Snowdrop
    • Chill time: 15 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2 weeks to bloom after chilling
  • Tulip
    • Chill time: 10-16 weeks
    • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling

    When the time comes to let them grow

    Forcing Bulbs

    Once you remove them from the refrigerator, soak the roots of the bulbs in a shallow pan of lukewarm water for a few hours. Using bulb vases and small pots for forcing are genuinely nice and great for indoor accents and a great way to bring the beauty of flowering bulbs into your home.

    • Fill a pot with potting soil or garden pebbles; insert the bulbs but leave the top two-thirds exposed.
    • Gently tamp down the soil or pebbles around the bulbs. Water until damp, then place in a sunny, warm spot.

    Some bulbs can be forced right in a glass container known as a bulb vase.

    The vase should be filled with water and the bulb should just barely touch the water. So that the roots can reach for the moisture and continue to grow with in the vase. Placed in area with bright light and some sunshine and you can watch the bulbs grow right in your home. Hyacinths, Daffodils, Paper Whites and Amaryllis are great for forcing.

    Forcing bulbs for the holidays can be great fun and make a great gift for friends and family.

    Narcissus, Hyacinth and Muscari have a wonderful scent and can be aromatic throughout your home during these special times.


    Here is a video on forcing bulbs that you might find helpful:

    Sources: