Forcing a bulb means to coax a bulb to bloom out of season, usually in the winter months. This process allows for indoor color during times of the year when you would not naturally be able to have blooming bulbs. If you’re looking for winter color, plan for October as the best time to begin preparing to force your indoor bulbs.
Bare bulbs can be stored for several weeks prior to planting. Store them in a ventilated bag in your refrigerator. You also have the option to pot your bulbs if you have an old refrigerator, root cellar or cool basement to store them in. If you use the refrigerator to cool your bulbs, be sure to cover them with a plastic bag with a few breathing holes punched into it to allow air to the planting site. Bagged or potted bulbs need to be stored for 12 weeks at a temperature below 48 degrees and then brought into a warmer temperature.
Make a note as to when you planted your bulbs so you don’t forget to take them out when they’re ready. After the 12 week cooling period if you haven’t already you will want to pot your bagged bulbs, or move your potted bulbs into a warm sunny area with early temperatures if 50 to 60 degrees. After you have done this, you can expect approximately a three to four-week wait before you have blooming flowers.
The Best Bulbs for Forcing
- Amaryllis (can be forced again and again!)
- Lily of the Valley
- Paper-White (Narcissus)
Some varieties, such as tulips, are not a good choice for forcing since they require a longer cooling period and are more successful with an even temperature fluctuation.