One of the best ways to bring some color to the gray winter months is by forcing spring bulbs to bloom indoors. For most types of spring bulbs, forcing is a process that begins in the fall, where the bulbs spend an “artificial winter” in your refrigerator. By timing this chilling period correctly, you can have blooms just in time for your favorite winter holiday.
Here’s what you need to know to force your own potted spring bulbs to bloom indoors.
Bulb Forcing Basics
Most spring bulbs must be chilled before they will bloom. Outdoors, this naturally happens during the winter, and the bulbs sprout as the soil gradually warms up in spring. To force bulbs to bloom early, they must be potted in the fall, artificially chilled for a prescribed period of time, then gradually brought out into the warmth.
Which Bulbs Can Be Forced to Bloom?
Many types of spring bulbs can be forced to bloom. Tulips are probably the most popular, but they’re also the most difficult to get to bloom. Check with your local garden center, or shop online specifically for bulb varieties that respond well to forcing.
Here are the most common forced bulbs, along with their required chilling times:
|Bulb Type||Chilling Time|
|Daffodils (miniature)||12 weeks|
|Grape Hyacinth||16 weeks|
|Paperwhites||No chilling required!|
|Tulips||16 weeks (some varieties are shorter)|
How to Force Bulbs to Bloom Out of Season
- Step 7: Enjoy Blooms: Remove spent blossoms and enjoy the blooms while they last. After they’ve finished blooming, you can either discard the bulbs, or feed them very lightly and continue occasional watering, then plant them outdoors in the spring.
- How to Force Spring Branches to Bloom Indoors (article)
- Understanding the Types of Bulbs In Your Garden (article)
- Guide to Growing Bulbs In Your Garden (article)
- Give Flower Bulbs a Protective Bath Before Planting (video)