Forcing bulbs indoors isn’t difficult, but it does require proper timing. Forced bulbs make beautiful centerpieces during the holiday season, add a touch of spring cheer during the darker winter months, and make a unique and beautiful gift. The easiest bulbs to enjoy indoors are paperwhites (Narcissus) and Amaryllis. These bulbs do not require pre-chilling and will bloom approximately 4-8 weeks after potting.
For quicker bloom, look for a small green tip at the top of the bulb. Plant with bulb ½ covered in well-draining soil or decorative pebbles, or suspend above water with roots pointing down.
Water sparingly until growth begins to appear. If planting in pebbles, add enough water so just the roots are in the water, and not the bulb itself. Once growth is under way, begin to water regularly. Do not allow the bulb to rot from over-watering, but also do not allow the roots to go dry.
Amaryllis: Soak bulbs in a Seaweed solution 20 minutes prior to planting. Keep in bright light until flowers begin to open; about 5-6 weeks. Once opening begins, move out of direct sunlight. Turn pot every few days for even flowering. To get Amaryllis to rebloom, cut off the flower and stop watering. When the foliage turns yellow, take it out of the pot, put in burlap and put in the garage. In October, remove dead foliage, plant in container with soil, and 6-7 weeks later it will bloom. Or, to plant outdoors, continue to water in the container after blooming. In February, take out of pot, remove the foliage, and plant in the garden. The amaryllis will bloom in the fall.
Paperwhites: Place bulb(s) in a special bulb vase or container with loose pebbles that will allow bulb(s) to be suspended above the water. Keep the water about ½” below the bulb(s), changing the water often, and roots will ‘reach’ for it as they grow. Most will bloom in about 5-6 weeks; yellow paperwhites can take up to 8 weeks to bloom. Paperwhites forced in pebbles will not generally re-bloom and can be discarded after blooming.
*PRO TIP! Gin added to the water at a 1:10 ratio will act as a growth regulator with Paperwhites and helps to keep them stocky and compact, to avoid flopping over. Vodka can be used as well, but gin is usually recommended.
Hyacinths must be properly chilled until planting time. Hyacinths forced in water take about 7 weeks to bloom. For bowl plantings, make sure all have a growing tip, so they will all bloom at the same time. Otherwise, use the same guidelines as above with Paperwhites.
Want to try your hand at forcing bulbs that are a bit more challenging? Our next post will cover those bulbs that need to be pre-chilled and prefer to be potted in soil before they’ll give you a show. Read on!