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Forcing Bulbs to Grow Indoors

If you’re unaware of what this process means, let me make it a bit more clearer. As the name suggests, forcing bulbs indoors means you are creating a suitable environment for the flowers to grow inside the house. Whether you’re planning on growing tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, snowdrops, muscari (grape hyacinths), chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-snow), or other types of bulbs, the basic growing steps will be somewhat the same.

Planting Bulbs in the Right Months
As we will be attempting to grow the bulbs outside their natural, normal growing cycle, you need to pay close attention to ‘when’ is the right time to plant the bulbs. Visit your local home garden center to pick up fresh and healthy bulbs for forcing. You can even ask necessary questions about forcing specific bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, or even daffodils, indoors. This way, you will have more knowledge as to how a particular bulb is grown indoors; perhaps you require a special kit, which includes pots, bulbs, and detailed instructions.

So your next question would be, ‘When should I start forcing the bulbs in order to enjoy them during the chilly months?’ Now, if you want these bulbs to bloom during the month of December, then start forcing them in the beginning of August. If you want the bulbs to bloom during the month of January and February, then start forcing them in the beginning of September and October, respectively. Now this calculation will vary depending on which type of bulb you are growing.

Choosing the Right Technique to Force Bulbs
It might come as a surprise, but growing bulbs indoors has more than one method. You can choose the old-fashioned method of potting the bulbs in the soil, try your hand at water forcing, or force them in pebbles and water. Take a look at the 3 different techniques to grow the bulbs inside the house, months earlier than they are supposed to grow outdoors.

Soil Forcing

  • This is the most common method used to force bulbs to grow indoors. Use a plastic pot instead of a clay pot, because when you add water to the latter, it dries out faster than the plastic pot. Plus, plastic pots weigh less and are inexpensive.
  • Add potting mix in with the bulbs. Depending on the size of the pot, you can add 3 – 5 bulbs at a time. Just make sure to pot them at an even distance so they don’t hinder each other’s growth.
  • The amount of potting mix to be added into each pot is about ⅔ full. After you’ve placed the bulbs in, fill the pot with more soil. The top of the bulb can remain exposed or covered (your choice).
  • For the next 2 months, we need to keep the pots buried outside in the garden. After this period, the bulbs will be ready for forcing indoors. Find an appropriate location to keep them where the temperature stays between 50ºF to 60ºF.
  • If the temperature goes higher than this, the leaves will grow too big for being indoors. After you begin to see the stalks of flowers, you can keep the bulbs in warm temperature.

Water Forcing

  • Apart from potting bulbs in the soil, you can even force them in water. To follow this technique, you require a hyacinth glass / vase which has a wide bottom and a tapered neck.
  • Fill the glass with water till the neck, and place the bulb on the wide opening of the glass. Here, you need to be very careful that the bulb doesn’t touch the water from the bottom.
  • So make sure there is at least ⅛” of gap between the bottom of the bulb and the water surface. Place the hyacinth glass in a cool, dark place, where it doesn’t get any sunlight.
  • Let the bulb stay there for approximately 4 – 5 weeks. After this time has passed, you can bring the bulb inside and begin to force it furthermore. What this water forcing technique does is help develop the root of the bulb to grow properly.

Water & Pebbles Forcing

  • Finally, you can try growing bulbs indoors with the water and pebbles method. For this, make sure the glass bowl that you use has no cracks, because no water should leak out.
  • As for including pebbles, you can use colorful stones and gravel for decoration. The different colors of pebbles makes the entire plantation very attractive.
  • While potting the bulbs, make sure that the bottom of the bulbs are properly secured inside the stones, as you don’t want them to move about inside. Add water into the glass bowl and stop before it touches the bottom of the bulbs.
  • This way, when the roots begin to grow, they will do so inside the water. And that’s what our goal is; to grow the roots in the water but not let the bottom of the bulbs touch it.
  • For the next 4 – 6 weeks, keep the bowl in an area where there’s no sunlight at all, preferably in the dark. After this time, you can keep the bowl in warm temperature which will force the flowers to bloom.