If you long for the fragrance of
spring during the gray days of winter, try the technique of forcing bulbs and you can
achieve a touch of spring indoors. From November through spring, forcing bulbs speeds up
the normal blooming time from six months to nearly three. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths,
amaryllis, and narcissus are good choices to start with.
Select bulbs recommended by your Growise Center that are free of
blemishes and bruises for best results. Large, firm bulbs yield multiple blooms, while
loose bulbs allow for creativity with planters and are often less expensive than potted
The Perfect Pot
Choose a pot that is at least twice as tall as the bulbs you are
planting in order to ensure room for root development. Your Growise Center has attractive
pots and can give you advice on the right pot for the job. Be sure that the pot you select
has a drainage hole. Partially cover the hole with stone or a piece of broken terra-cotta
to slow the water flow and to prevent the soil from washing out.
Putting It All Together
Your Growise Center can recommend the appropriate soil used for
forcing bulbs. Loosely fill the pot halfway, being careful not to pack the soil down.
Place the bulb on top of the soil and cover with loose soil until only the tips show
through. Crowd bulbs in your pot for an effective display of blooms, allowing 1/4"
(0.64 cm) between bulbs. Label pots with bulb name, color, and date.
Set a dozen crocus corms in an 8" (20.32 cm) pot.
Plant several daffodil and hyacinth bulbs together in a 10"
(25.40 cm) pot.
Mix shades of hyacinths--lavender-blue, pink and ivory.
Combine several jewel-toned tulips with white ones. Tulips need
about twelve weeks to develop roots and bulbs should be planted flat side out.
Fooling the Bulbs
Forcing bulbs entails simulating winter conditions. Place the
bulbs in an area where temperatures range from 350
F to 500 F (20
C to 100 C), such as a garage, an unheated
basement, even the refrigerator.
Cover the pots with newspaper or a box. Water the plants every
couple of weeks or when the soil is dry. Check the pots in eight weeks for root
development. Bulbs are ready for their simulated spring when roots are visible through the
drainage hole and stems are 2" (5.08 cm) high. Move the plants to a cool room without
bright light and in a few weeks buds should appear.
Once buds appear, move the plants to a sunny spot and blooms will
shortly follow. For long lasting blooms, keep plants out of direct sun and out of drafts.
Water when the soil dries out and keep plants in a cool room at night. Once blooms fade,
continue to water the plants in a cool room. Once the ground thaws, plant the bulbs
Often the bright-colored trumpet-like amaryllis and the
sweet-scented paper-white narcissus are forced for indoor blooms around Thanksgiving and
the holidays, since they make great holiday gifts. When a snowy landscape in Mid-February
is the scene from my window, my scarlet, quadruple-trumpeted amaryllis is preparing to
explode with color for Valentine's Day.
The paper-whites are best discarded after blooming; however, the
amaryllis can bloom the next year by placing them outdoors during the summer in their pots
in the shade. After a light frost, move them indoors and set them on their sides in a dark
closet or in a basement. Once it dies, cut it back to 2" (5.08 cm). By Early
November, the tip of the flower bud should slowly emerge.
Pot the plant and place in a warm place with some sunlight and
water again. Blooms should appear by December or January. Visit your Growise Center to
learn more about these beautiful flowering bulbs.
Flowering indoor bulbs can lift a winter weary spirit. Lines from
the Persian poem, "Not By Bread Alone," say it best:
If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but left
Two loaves--sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.