How to force bulbs for winter bloom

Bulbs can be forced in any container that is at least 10cm (4″) deep and has a drainage hole. Decorative containers without drainage holes will work well too, providing they are deep enough for 5-8cm (2-3″) of crushed gravel at the bottom.

Use a light porous potting soil mix. Loosely fill the pots with soil. Press bulbs into the soil leaving the neck of the bulb out of the soil.

Small bulbs should be pressed into the soil 6mm (1/4″) below soil surface.

You may put in as many bulbs as it takes to completely fill the pot. With tulip bulbs the flat side is placed at the outside edge of the pot so the leaves will grow out over the pot. Water pots twice to ensure soil completely moist.

The easiest method of rooting is to bury the pot 20-25cm (8-20″) deep in a bed near the foundation of the house and cover with 20-30cm (8-12″) of leaves or vermiculite. If this is not possible, An alternative would be to put the pot in a box, cover with vermiculite and store in cool dark place. Rooting time may vary from 8-12 weeks – check the root system and if it has a well established mass of roots, it will be ready to bring in.

After bringing indoors, remove any excess soil fromp of the pot to leave 1cm (1/2″) for watering. Set the pot into medium light for 2-3 days, then move to a bright window. Avoid hot drafts from heaters and keep well watered.

All tulips can be forced, but some of the better varieties include: Cassini, Garden Party, Olaf, Bellona, Keizerkroon, Dwarf Botanicals and Double early types. For Daffodils and Narcissus, choose King Alfreds, Golden Harvest and Cheerfulness. To bring spring to your home this winter, also try Hyacinths in any colour, Scilla, Crocus, Muscari and Snowdrops.

HYACINTHS & PAPER WHITE NARCISSUS particularly, do well in a container with moist pebbles only, or in glass container with water, since the bulb already contains everything necessary for successful bloom. Hyacinths should not have the base of the bulb touching the water as this can induce basal rot. Keep them just above the surface.

Paper White Narcissus should have the base of the bulb just ‘kissing’ the water surface, thus inducing quick and even root development. Place in a dark, cool place and bring out as for other bulbs. A piece of charcoal in the water to keep it sweet is helpful. It is wise to change the water every three or four weeks while in the dark and every week or ten days afterwards. If you wish to keep your bulbs for future years in the garden, you must not cut down the foliage; only remove the dead flower stem then plant out in the garden as soon as possible in the spring.


Courtesy White Rose Nursery.