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Forcing Bulbs for Winter Blooms

Updated on August 23, 2017

Beautiful Blooms for the Holidays

What could be nicer than colorful blooms in the dead of winter? Many bulbs can be forced to grow indoors when it is cold outside. The key is to trick the bulbs into thinking that winter has passed and spring has arrived. Tulips are one of the easiest to force, and they make a lovely Christmas or New Year's gift. Who wouldn't love to receive live blooms at the most unexpected time of year? Here's how to do it.

Photo credit: Simplypix

Place pebbles in the bottom of the container.
Place pebbles in the bottom of the container.

Getting Started

When bulbs become available at your local nursery in the fall, buy a bag and place them in the refrigerator. Make certain that there are no fruits or vegetables in the fridge that will emit ethylene gas as they ripen, which could damage the flowers that are latent within the bulbs.

Begin collecting clear glass containers in which to plant the bulbs. The containers must be at least twice as tall as the bulbs and wide enough that your fingers can reach in deeply enough to place the bulbs. Containers with wide mouths or straight sides work best.

Also, purchase clean pebbles from the nursery or craft store to place in the bottom of each container. Do not collect pebbles from nature for this project, as they may harbor bacteria that could be harmful to the bulbs. Choose pebble colors that will complement the bloom colors.

A the third week of November, around Thanksgiving, begin planting your bulbs in the glass jars. Start by filling the jars with pebbles, leaving room so that when the bulb is placed on top of the pebbles, the growth tip is below the top edge of the container.

Fill the container with water to just below the top of the pebbles.
Fill the container with water to just below the top of the pebbles.

Add Water

Add water to your containers. Fill to just below the top of the rocks so that when the bulbs are placed in the container, they do not directly touch the water. When you place your bulb on top of the rocks, the bottom of the bulb should not be sitting in water, or it may rot. As roots begin to grow, they will reach down into the water.

Place the bulbs on top of the pebbles with the growth tip pointing up.
Place the bulbs on top of the pebbles with the growth tip pointing up.

Place the Bulbs

Decide how you will arrange your bulbs. Do you want all one color of blooms in your container or will you mix the bloom colors? Some packages of bulbs contain mixed colors, so you will not know until they bloom which color each individual bulb will be. Other packages contain all one color, allowing you to choose whether the colors in the vases will be uniform or mixed.

Place bubs in the container, on top of the rocks. Place the larger end of the bulb down, and the growth tips pointing upwards. Place as many bulbs into the container as will fit without touching each other.

Store the bulbs in a cool, dark place for several weeks.
Store the bulbs in a cool, dark place for several weeks.

Storing the Bulbs

Place the bulbs in a cool, dark place for several weeks. The ideal temperature for storage at this stage is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the growth tips begin to sprout and turn green, bring the bulbs out into indirect light until the day that they will be given as a gift.

Instruct the recipient to keep the water filled to just below the bottom of the bulbs. If your water contains a lot of salts, periodically drain the water and replace it with fresh water to prevent salt build-up in the container. Prepared in this way, bulbs should bloom between Christmas and New Year's Day.

When you give the bulbs as a gift, try not to jostle the container too much in transport, which could displace the bulbs. I generally do not wrap the vases or place them into a gift bag because I want the recipient to immediately see that the gift needs to be handled carefully. Clear cellophane wrap or simply a pretty bow tied around the vases suffices.

Supplies for the Project - Tulip Bulbs

Amazon lists a variety of bulbs in spectacular colors. Shop for all of your supplies for this project and receive FREE Super Saver shipping on qualifying orders of $25 or more.

Are Indoor Winter Blooms Worth the Trouble?

Do you enjoy indoor winter flower arrangements enough to spend the effort to force the blooms? Or do you prefer planted bulbs for springtime blooms outdoors?

Is it worth the effort to have blooms in the winter?

We appreciate your comments and are happy to answer your questions.

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