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Forcing Flower Bulbs Successfully

Need a little color in your home this winter? After all the holiday décor is stored away, forcing flower bulbs indoors is a great way to enjoy flowers, both for their color and fragrance, during the cold winter months.

Carole Dunn, Master Gardener

Forcing Flower Bulbs Successfully

Forcing bulbs indoors is quite easy and does not require expensive materials. You will first need to choose some bulbs. Flower bulbs that are easy to force are: Grape Hyacinths, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Paperwhites. These can be found at most garden stores or purchased through catalogs and online.


Prechill bulbs, such as hyacinths and daffodils. To do so, place them in a paper bag and store in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks. Paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs do not require a chilling period.

Forcing bulbs in water

One of the easiest ways to force bulbs is in water. Find a vase or jar that will hold your bulb or bulbs in an even layer. Fill the container with water to just touch the base of the bulb(s.) You will quickly see roots forming. Once you see them, keep the water level below the bulb to prevent rotting. Keep in a cool. Dark place until you see an inch or two of leaf growth. Move the bulbs to a bright spot but avoid direct sunlight. Rotate the vase from time to time to keep the plant growing straight. Add water when needed but keep it below the bottom of the bulb.

Forcing bulbs on stones

If using a larger vase, creating a base of stones can help keep your bulbs above the water level. Some “stone” options are pea gravel, river rock, glass chips and marbles. Set the bulbs on top of the stones then add a few stones around each bulb to anchor them and keep from tipping. Do not cover them. Add water to reach the base of the bulbs. Add water as it evaporates, keeping the level just below the bulb base.

Tip for Paperwhites

Get your Paperwhites tipsy! Paperwhites tend to get a little floppy, to prevent this, when leaves are 1 to 2 inches tall, pour out the plain water in your vase and replace with a 1:8 alcohol-to-water solution. Do not over do it, too much alcohol can kill the plants. You can use vodka, whiskey or rum. The use of this mixture stunts the plant’s growth, keeping it compact and sturdy. Keep adding until it is done flowering.

Follow these tips to enjoy bringing a little early Spring to your home.

Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (1), Gail Maifeld (2)

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