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Forcing Bulbs for Colour in the Winter Months: A Beginner's Guide

forced bulbs

What on earth are Forced Bulbs? 

Despite the seemingly barbaric connotations of the phrase, we promise that no plants are harmed in the Forced Bulb process. 

Many spring-flowering bulbs can be tricked or "forced" into bloom indoors by providing them with a simulated spring. This is achieved by placing the planted pots in a dark, cool location for about six weeks while they develop roots. These plants will flower ahead of time – so instead of waiting for spring to arrive before the first sightings of colour and whiffs of gorgeous scent, you'll be brought some early cheer in the chilly depths of January.

If you've been wondering how your neighbour managed to fill their windowsills with stunning spring blooms in the dead of winter, now you know their secret!

Truth be told, they may have started the forcing process way back in September and early October, when bulbs are plentiful via mail order. Take a leaf out of their book if you want an indoor flower paradise next autumn and winter, and mark the date in your gardening calendar.

Creating your own Forced Bulb collection 

In October, you'll need to buy tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus or any other bulb sold for autumn planting and spring bloom.

Begin by potting the bulbs in clean pots, leaving just the "noses" of the bulbs exposed above the potting mix or multipurpose compost, and then watering them well.

Next, you'll want to place the pots in a location with a temperature of around 9 degrees Celsius. There are a number of good locations, including outdoors – where the bulbs will require insulation with a covering of dry leaves or mulch.

A cold basement, an unheated garage or a shed will work too, provided the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing. You may even choose to refrigerate them, however, ensure there's no fresh fruit inside as the gases released by the fruit will interfere with flower development.

Plant roots form and stems lengthen during this cooling period, which generally ranges from 10 to 15 weeks. Check on the bulbs periodically and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.

Once the bulbs have 2 to 4 inches of stem growth and are well-rooted in the soil, move them to a dim, warmer indoor location to initiate further growth and greening. After a week, move the bulbs to a brighter area. 

Sit back for two to four weeks as you watch the buds form, which will soon blossom into flowers.

Recommended cooling/rooting times for bulbs 

Crocus (Spring-blooming Crocus), 8-10 weeks

Galanthus (Snowdrops), 10-12 weeks

Hyacinthus (Hyacinth), 12-14 weeks

Dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata and other spring-blooming bulbous species), 10-12 weeks

Muscari (Grape Hyacinth, to keep the leaves shorter, store cool and dry for 6-8 weeks, then give 2 weeks of cool rooting time)

Trumpet Daffodils, 14-16 weeks

Large-Cupped Daffodils, 15-17 weeks

Small-Cupped Daffodils, 16-18 weeks

Double-Flowered Daffodils, 16-18 weeks

Split-Corona Daffodils, 14-16 weeks

Narcissus (Triandrus), 16-17 weeks

Narcissus (Cyclamineus), 14-15 weeks

Narcissus (Jonquilla), 15-16 weeks

Narcissus (Tazetta), 14-15 weeks

Narcissus (Miniature), 14-16 weeks

Tulipa (Tulip), 14-16 weeks

Caring for your Forced Bulb collection 

As your bulbs grow, water them when the potting mix is dry to the touch, allowing the soil to drain. The pot should be placed in a location where it will receive 6-8 hours of sun a day – near a window is ideal.

Some plants may get leggy and fall over as they sometimes do in the garden, particularly in lower light levels. If that happens, treat your bulb garden as a cutting garden. Cut the flowers and enjoy them in vases.

Once the blooming process is over, the bulbs can't be forced to bloom indoors again. You may want to try your luck at planting them outdoors, but expect two or more years to pass before the bulbs possibly bloom again. 

UCS Fresh Garden’s Forced Bulb collection 

Forcing bulbs indoors in the cooler seasons is easier than you think, with only a few simple steps to follow. Enjoying an early spring in your indoor garden can be a satisfying and rewarding practice.

However, time doesn't always play nicely in the modern world. Our pot grown spring bulbs are ready for you to purchase at UCS Fresh Garden. Enjoy an instant indoor collection of fragrant blooms delivered to your door!

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