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Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Updated on October 9, 2017
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Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

You can brighten dreary winter weather outdoors with colorful spring blooms indoors by forcing your favorite bulbs. All you need are the bulbs, a bowl, gravel and water.

Best bulbs for forcing

Any spring bulb can be forced to bloom in your home. Daffodils, hyacinths and crocus are the easiest to force. In the case of daffodils, delicate paperwhite narcissus are preferred over larger daffodils. Choose bulbs whose flowers have little or no scent. I speak from experience. I once forced bulbs in a small apartment and was almost run out of my home by the overpowering scent! What is a pleasant fragrance outdoors can be overwhelming in small rooms.

What you will need

You don’t need any specialized equipment to force bulbs. A bowl, large enough to hold your bulbs without crowding, some gravel and water is all that is required. Don’t use gravel from your yard. It can contain soil, mold or fungi spores which can cause problems in your home. You want to use smaller stones such as pea gravel or even aquarium gravel, new, not previously used.

Plant your bulbs

Fill your bowl with an inch or so of gravel and then add water until it reaches the top of the gravel. Arrange your bulbs, tips up roots down, on the gravel. Add more gravel around the bulbs to keep them upright. Keep the water just at root level. Do not immerse your bulbs in water.

Keep your bulbs in a cool (50°F or 20°C) dark place for 4 to 6 weeks until they have developed roots and the stems have begun to grow. Don’t forget to water them! Then move them into a warm sunny window. Keep watered and enjoy the colorful flowers.

There is no need to fertilize because bulbs contain all of the nutrients needed to produce both foliage and flowers.

Hyacinth glasses

Hyacinths can be forced in water alone using hyacinth glasses (pictured above). Hyacinth glasses are shaped so that the bottoms act as a reservoir for water while the tops keep the bulbs upright and the roots in contact with the water. They come in different colors so that they can blend with your décor.

Winter can seem to last forever. You can shorten your wait for spring by forcing your favorite spring bulbs indoors.

© 2013 Caren White


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