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How to Force Bulbs to Bloom Indoors

Spring flowering bulbs can be potted up to give you an early bloom indoors,
however the flowers may also bring with them a bad case of Spring Fever.

The Bulb Forcing Process

The best containers for forcing bulbs are Azalea pots or bulb pans.
Azalea pots are 3/4 of the height of normal size pots.
However... you can use anything that you'd use for other houseplants as long as it drains well.

Since a bulb contains all the nutrients that it needs to bloom the first year, the planting mix doesn't necessarily have to provide any nutrients, but I have found that using a good potting soil makes it much easier to transplant the bulbs to the garden later. The addition of bone meal or bulb food will help the bulbs prepare for an afterlife in the garden.
Clean washed sand or gravel may also be used as alternatives to soil, but I don't recommend it.

Shaun the Garden Gnome

The pot should be filled one-half to three-quarters full with potting mix and then moistened.
Gently press the bulbs into the soil with the broad base down, and the nose pointed up.
They should be arranged as close together as possible without touching each other or the pot.
Face the flat side of Tulip bulbs toward the outside of the pot.
Barely cover the bulbs with additional potting mix and water gently until the soil is thoroughly moistened.
Add a little more soil if settling has exposed the bulbs.
Now the pot must be placed in a dark, cool area for 12 weeks or longer.
The temperature must remain below 48° F. but above freezing (35°-40° is recommended).
Total darkness is best, but if you are chilling the bulbs in the refrigerator don't worry about the light coming on when you open the door.

Growing your flowering bulbs

Once the roots of the chilling bulbs begin to grow out of the drainage holes in the pots, or the new shoots begin to show at about twelve weeks, give the bulbs a gradual transition to warmth.
Don't expose them to warm temperatures too soon or the blooms will emerge to fast and will fail before they ever open.
Start them out in the coolest spot of your home and gradually move them to warmer areas.
This will make the flowers last much longer.

Don't expose pale or white foliage to full sun until it has 'greened' up in a few days.
Rotate the pots one-quarter turn every few days to keep the foliage and stems upright.
Keep the soil moist, but never soggy.
Once the bulbs have finished flowering, remove the spent flowers and stems
but continue to water and provide light for the foliage.
The foliage will feed the bulb so it can grow again next year.
Do not remove the foliage until it has turned yellow.
The bulbs can be planted outside when the weather permits just as with any perennial.
The bulbs can be separated by gently and slowly pulling them apart.
Unfortunately, forcing takes a lot out of a bulb so it may not bloom again for many seasons.
Bulbs should never be forced a second time, always start with NEW BULBS!

Bulbs that are Suitable for Forcing

Bulb Type Chilling Time Bloom Time
after Chilling
Notes
Amaryllis Needs No Chilling 5-10 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plant
Autumn Crocus Needs No Chilling 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringSome or all parts of this plant may be toxic or poisonousWhite flowering plantPink flowering plant
Bluebell 10-12 weeks 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditionsWhite flowering plantPink flowering plantblue flowering plant
Calla Lily Needs No Chilling 8-10 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditionsNo DeerWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plantYellow flowering plant
Crocus 14-15 weeks 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringSome or all parts of this plant may be toxic or poisonousWhite flowering plantYellow flowering plantPurple flowering plant
Daffodil 15-17 weeks 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plantYellow flowering plant
Dutch Iris 12-15 weeks 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayHummingbird PlantNo DeerWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plantYellow flowering plantblue flowering plantPurple flowering plantorange flowering plant
Fairy Lily Needs No Chilling 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plantPink flowering plant
Freesia Needs No Chilling 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the day This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plantYellow flowering plantPurple flowering plantorange flowering plant
Grape Hyacinth 13-16 weeks 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayOnce established this plant requires little or no supplemental wateringThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringblue flowering plant
Hyacinth 10-14 weeks 2-3 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the day Once established this plant requires little or no supplemental wateringThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plantYellow flowering plantblue flowering plantPurple flowering plant
Lily of the Valley 12-15 weeks 3-4 weeks This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlightThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditionsNo DeerSome or all parts of this plant may be toxic or poisonousWhite flowering plantPink flowering plant
Paperwhite Narcissus
Needs No Chilling 3-5 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plant
Tulip 14-20 weeks 4-5 weeks This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plantYellow flowering plantPurple flowering plantorange flowering plantBurgundy flowering plant