Everything You Need To Know About Forcing Bulbs

Everything You Need To Know About Forcing Bulbs

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Need to brighten your dreary winter or inject some fragrance and color into your home? Force a few spring bulbs!

If you are looking to have forced bulbs blooming this winter, your options go way beyond the usual Amaryllis or Paperwhite Narcissus! Sure these are among the easiest as they don’t need chill hours, meaning they can be potted and started to grow right away. Fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs are easy to grow and a joy to watch as they quickly grow and flower!

But remember - there are so many other options!

Forcing Spring Bulbs jan bos hyacinth

If you want an inexpensive gift, or a fun project for the kids while everyone is cooped up this winter, add some cheer during these dreary short days of winter by forcing spring bulbs! 

There are a wide variety of Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths, Muscari, Squills, and Crocus, in addition to Paperwhites that are available every fall!

Start with fresh, large, and firm Nature Hills bulbs for the very best results!

Forcing Bulbs 101 - What Does Forcing Bulbs Mean

By potting up some fall-planted, spring-flowering bulbs now, you are essentially tricking them into blooming earlier than they would if they are grown outside. 

The Keys to Success:

fertilome potting mix

  • A good, loose, enriched potting mix (not soil from the garden)
  • Decorative pot, wide-mouth vase, or clay pot already laying around the potting shed or garage 
  • A bright, sunny, yet indirect light location
  • Attention to moisture, mulch or moss to hold in moisture and a dash of patience

Directions bulbs planted in a pot

  1. Ensure you have proper drainage in your container or a means to wick away excess moisture
  2. Fill the container with soil about halfway or more for smaller bulbs
  3. Moisten to the touch
  4. Place the bulbs onto the soil with the pointed side up
  5. The bulb's tips should be just beneath the edge of the pot 
  6. Plant many bulbs in a pot close together and even touching for the greatest impact
  7. Cover with more moistened soil, tamping down gently

Set up multiple pots in cold storage and bring them out a week or two apart for an extended bloom time in your home! Try mixing and matching different spring bulbs - a ring of Crocusbulb garden around a central column of Tulips. Or a wide, shallow dish of dainty Squills and Muscari surrounded by polished pebbles. Mix Paperwhites, Hyacinths, and Tulips for a lovely fragrance in a decorative glazed pot. There’s always something special about Snowdrops coming up from a bed of moss in a teapot! Some miniature Dwarf Iris in cute decorative buckets or watering cans will look adorable!

Try mixing your bulbs among African Violets, and other flowering houseplants! Use a terrarium for a lovely display that can be kept out of reach of curious little fingers or naughty pets! There are even hydroponic vases specially designed for larger Hyacinth, Tulip, and Amaryllis bulbs.

bloom time infographic

How to Prepare Bulbs for Forcing getting ready to plant bulbs

If you do not have pre-chilled bulbs, some like to place these potted bulbs in the refrigerator (kept away from fruits or vegetables) or outside if the temperatures are consistently cold enough. These potted bulbs will need a chill period where they remain in a cool spot of about 40°F or less, for about 12- 16 weeks. They can be kept in the dark and add any additional moisture as needed. Since these do not have leaves yet, watch it with watering and only keep the soil barely moist to the touch.


Water the soil well and drain off any excess water. Keeping the bulbs wet will cause them to rot, but the soil needs to be moist. The moist soil will encourage roots to develop soon after they are potted up. Once they grow, continue monitoring the moisture on a daily basis.


As soon as you see the plants begin to grow, they can be brought out of cold storage and placed in a sunny window where they will develop new leaves! In only 3-4 weeks you will enjoy blooms right inside your home! 

What To Do With Bulbs After Forcing potted muscari

There is little need to fertilize your bulbs, just keep those leaves in a sunny area. The bulb stores all the food the flowers will need. If you are planning on keeping your bulbs to plant outdoors once spring has arrived in your area, use all-purpose fertilizer, compost tea, or earthworm castings as soon as the flowers fade and are deadheaded.

Once your Christmas Amaryllis or spring ephemerals are done blooming, be sure to deadhead the flowers only and keep the leaves. This way the green leaves will continue. to grow and make food for the bulbs. Sometimes these blooms and leaves get a bit leggy when in less light than optimal, so if you are not able to move them to a brighter (still indirect) sun location, find a way to support the stems with stakes and soft twine or yarn to help hold them up.

Many folks use these forced bulbs as annual accents, however, you can also plant them outdoors. Once it is past the last hard-freeze date in your growing zone - plant your bulbs outdoors and watch them grow year after year! Keep them watered until they are established.

Make Spring Happen Early Indoors!

Your flowering forced spring bulbs can now be enjoyed, or gifted as soon as the buds begin to show! Include an instruction card with care and watering needs. 

What could be nicer to have the work done for you? What could be a better treat for your own home? 

Try making gorgeous spring arrangements with forced branches from your flowering trees like Forsythia, Cherry or Apple trees, and Quince! You’ll whisk away the dreary winter doldrums in a hurry!

Head over to NatureHills.com right now and start adding some indoor cheer today with gorgeous spring-flowering bulbs!

Happy Planting!

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