How to Force Spring Bulbs


When the dark days of winter have set in, many of us long for spring to come early! Not only can you find ways to bring it on a little early, you can pot up spring to be ready to show it off in your home, on your porch or in the garden! The trick is to learn how to force spring bulbs to bloom in pots. Best bets for forcing include tulips, hyacinths and daffodils.

There are two steps to forcing bulbs… the chill step, where the roots develop, and the grow step, where they…well, grow! (And bloom, of course!)

Step One: The Chill Step

Pot up bulbs in shallow pots or containers in lightweight potting soil that is well drained. Layer bulbs of different types and sizes if you like. It is important throughout this stage that the soil be kept lightly moist… you may need to check every couple of days and add a little water. Now place the pots in a cool, dark spot for 8-16 weeks, depending on size and variety (small bulbs need less, like crocus) or until roots show through the drainage holes in the bottom. You want the spot to be less than 50 degrees, but not freezing. A refrigerator is the perfect spot, and some people use a cold frame out in the garden. Just make sure they don’t freeze, and that the roots are fully formed before you move on to the grow step.

Step Two: The Grow Step

Once you see good root formation, the next step is to place them in a cooler spot in bright sunlight. You want to let them become accustomed to warmth for a few weeks, perhaps in a north facing window in a room that is not overly heated. Remember the moist soil!

After they have gotten some good growth on them, move them to a sunny and warmer window, porch or spot in the garden. They should bloom within 3-4 weeks from removing them from cold storage.

Forced bulbs rarely re-bloom the next year, so treat them like annuals. These can make great Easter gifts, or simply happy gifts to those you care about (including you!) who need a dose of spring, perhaps a little early!
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