In the Garden

Now’s the Time to Force a Few Spring Flowering Bulbs 

When forcing bulbs, select combinations that will provide plenty of color, texture and form. 

In just fifteen minutes, you can plant a beautiful garden guaranteed to brighten your spirits and indoor décor this winter. All you need is a container with drainage holes, potting mix, and some tulips, daffodils, and other spring-flowering bulbs. Once you have gathered the required materials, you can get started planting.

Select bulbs labeled for forcing. They are shorter varieties that are less likely to flop or pre-chilled bulbs that don’t need chilling. Plant a container of one type of bulb or use a combination for added color, texture, form, and longer bloom time. Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are most common, but you may want to add another layer of color with shorter bulbs like crocus, squills, and grape hyacinths.

BULB FORCING photo credit Melidna Myers LLC

Select a container with drainage holes and cover the bottom with an inch or two of a well-drained potting mix. Set bulbs on the potting mix with the pointed side, if it has one, up and root side down. Place the flat side of the tulip bulb toward the outside of the pot for a better display. Pack the container full of bulbs for an impressive array. Cover the bulbs with soil and water thoroughly.

Or for a little bit more of a unique display, you can create a garden of spring flowers in a pot using a variety of large and small bulbs. Begin by placing the largest bulbs on the lowest level of the large container. Cover with soil and add the medium-sized bulbs. Cover the medium bulbs and add the smallest ones. Then cover with several inches of potting mix and water thoroughly.

Move the potted bulbs to a cold location with temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees for 15 weeks to initiate flowering. This process is often the most challenging. Place the potted bulbs in a spare refrigerator where you do not store fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene that can interfere with flowering. Skip this step if you purchased pre-chilled bulbs that need no additional cold treatment.

Start removing the pots from cold storage after fifteen weeks of chilling. Extend your enjoyment by removing the pots at one-or two-week intervals.

Move the chilled container of bulbs to a cool location with indirect light for two weeks. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil moist. Move them to a bright sunny window when the leaves are about four to six inches tall. Bright sunlight and temperatures around 65 degrees Fahrenheit will give you the best results. You’ll be enjoying flowers in about three to four weeks after removing them from storage.

Container Tulips

Use pots of forced bulbs as centerpieces or flowering accents indoors. Save a few to use outdoors on your balcony, deck or front steps for added color in your spring landscape.  Dress up your display by placing the pots in window boxes or planters and cover with mulch or moss.

Planting and forcing bulbs will help you add spring flowering bulbs to your indoor décor or outdoor landscape. They provide acolorful bridge between your winter and summer gardens.


Melinda Myers

Melinda Myers is a nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist. She has more than 35 years of horticulture experience, a master’s degree in horticulture and has written over 20 books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” gardening DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments as well as columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazineVisit her website at

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