Forcing bulbs indoors can be a great way to bring the colors and fragrance of spring into the home during the cold dark days of winter. A fun project to tackle with children or friends, a few bulbs in bloom also make a great gift for any flower lover. Tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, and daffodils are excellent options.
Timing is the main thing to consider when forcing bulbs. Typically, most bulbs need a minimum 8 – 12 week cold period, although you can find “pre-chilled” bulbs that require only 2 – 3 weeks. If you are hoping for blooms in the heart of winter, it is best to start planting in early October, though planting in the new year will still promise blooms earlier than most outdoor spring blossoms.
To get started, you will need good potting soil and a clean container (with drainage holes) twice the depth of the bulbs you will be planting.
Fill the container 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 deep with soil, then place the bulbs gently on top, not pressing in too hard. Place as many bulbs as possible in the container without their touching each other. A 6” wide pot can hold about 6 tulips, 3 daffodils, or about 15 minor bulbs such as grape hyacinth or crocus. Cover loosely with soil leaving the very tops of the bulbs exposed. Next water thoroughly and label with the planting date. Cover the container loosely with a paper bag.
Place in a cool dark location: 35 – 45 degrees is optimal. An unheated basement, attic, or attached garage can work as well as a refrigerator. Just be sure the temperature is consistent and the pot remains moist at all times. After 8 – 12 weeks (depending on bulb choice), remove the pot from storage, place in a sunny window, and keep watered.
Even with snow outside the window, the sprouting of new flowers will be a welcoming reminder that spring is on its way.