Forcing Bulbs Indoors

By The Old House Web

Forcing is a process by which plants are stimulated to bloom at other than their normaltime. Bringing hardy bulbs indoors will add color to household plants. This is easilyaccomplished with hardy bulbs if there is storage for the bulbs at a cold temperature.

Manyspring bulbs can be forced indoors. Of the many types of tulips available, the Triumphstrain is best because they have short, thick, sturdy stems. Other tulips will bloomindoors but may have weak, long stems and look out of proportion to their container.

Recommended varieties include:


  • Red - Bing Crosby, Paul Richter, Olaf
  • Yellow - Bellona
  • White - Hibernia
  • Pink - Christmas Marvel
  • Variegated - Kees Nelis


  • Purple - Rememberance
  • White - Peter Pan
  • Striped - Pickwick
  • Yellow - Large Yellow


  • Red - Jan Bos
  • Pink - Pink Pearl, Lady Derby, Marconi
  • White - L'Innocence, Colosseum,Carnegieue
  • Blue - Ostara, Delft Blue

Grape Hyacinth

  • Blue - Early Giant


  • Yellow - Carlton, Unsurpassable, Dutch Master
  • Bicolor - Fortune, Ice Follies, Magnet, Flower Record
  • White - Mt. Hood

Bulbous Iris (reticulata)

  • Blue - Harmony
  • Yellow - Danfordiae
  • Purple - Hercules


Plant bulbs for forcing in a clean container with a drainage hole, in a loose pottingsoil, such as six of one part humus, one part peat or vermiculite and one part sand orperlite. Position each bulb so that its top is even with the top edge of the container.Plant several bulbs in a container for best display.

After planting, water the pots thoroughly and label each pot with the planting date andbulb variety. Fertilizer is not needed as the bulb has all the stored food within itselfthat will be needed to flower. Store the bulbs at least 13 weeks at temperatures between35 and 48 degrees F. They can be stored for longer, but not for less time. The storageperiod is critical to developing good roots; if the root system is under-developed, theflowers will be small and floppy. Good storage areas may be difficult to find; somepossibilities include unheated cellars, porches, cold frames or even the refrigerator. Thebulbs can even be buried in the garden and covered with a thick layer of straw to keep theground unfrozen.

When the desired flowering time is early January, the approximate planting time isearly September. When the desired flowering time is February, the approximate plantingtime is October and when the desired flowering time is March-April, the approximateplanting time is Mid-November. After 13 weeks, bring the pots indoors into a sunny roomwith temperatures around 60 degrees F. Warmer temperatures are undesirable, as theyencourage rapid growth of long, lanky stems and foliage. The bulbs should be kept moist.The flowers should open in three to four weeks.

During flowering, it is advisable to keep the plants in as cool an area as possible,and keep the plants moist to encourage longer blooming. After flowering, the bulbs may bedisposed of, as most will not flower well again. Exceptions are the hyacinth anddaffodils, which may flower again if planted outdoors. When saving the bulbs, fertilizethe plants with a high phosphorous houseplant fertilizer to keep them moist and toencourage healthy green leaves for the longest period of time. If possible, plant thebulbs in the spring after their foliage has died down, at their normal depth in the garden- about 6 inches deep for large bulbs and 2 to 3 inches deep for smaller bulbs.


"Forcing Bulbs Indoors"
by Nancy J. Butler
MSU Cooperative Extension Service
Weed'Em and Reap-Aug.-Sept. 1987

This information is for educational purposes only.References to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSUExtension or bias against those not mentioned. This information becomes public propertyupon publication and may be printed verbatim with credit to MSU Extension. Reprintingcannot be used to endorse or advertise a commercial product or company.

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