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How to Force Bulbs, Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors, is one of the more enjoyable indoor gardening projects. Your mission, is to convince a spring bulb that it has slept through the winter months, and it is time to awaken into full bloom. You are doing this, even as the snow is piling up outside your window. Your reward is a colorful bloom and scent, during an otherwise grey and drab day. What better way to beat the winter doldrums!?!

Forcing bulbs indoors, is not difficult. It just takes time, patience and a little advance planning. Sure, you can buy potted bulbs already forced and ready to grow. But why do that? You are a gardener. Why let someone else have all the fun!?!

How to Force Bulbs Indoors:

Select the bulbs you are going to force. Use you artistic skills, to mix and match the right blooms  and colors, with the right pot.

Use a good potting soil that drains well.

Tip: Make up several pots to produce a continuous bloom, over the winter months.

After making the pots, water thoroughly until water emerges from the holes at the bottom of the pots. Let excess water drain out.

Most bulbs require a "chilling period". Chilling time is when the bulb you are forcing is dormant in a cool environment, simulating it's natural underground winter home in cold soil. Most bulbs need this chilling period to force them to bloom. A couple exceptions to the rule are Paperwhites and Amaryllis. They do not require a period of chilling.

Chill bulbs, by potting them up and placing the pots in a cool location. The ideal temperature for chilling is 40 degrees, keeping them as close to this temperature as possible. Do not let the bulbs freeze.

Chill Times for Bulbs:
Bulb Chill Time (weeks) Weeks to Bloom
Amaryllis None required 5-10
Crocus 14-15 2-3
Daffodil 15-17 2-3
Freesia None required 2-3
Hyacinth 10-14 2-3
Iris, Dwarf 12-15 3-4
Lily of the Valley 12-15 2-3
Muscari 13-16 2-3
Paperwhite None required 3-5
Scilia Tubergeniana 12-15 2-3
Snowdrop 14-15 2-3
Tulip 14-20 3-4

Tip: You can chill bulbs before potting.

Check on the pots from time to time. Make sure that the soil has not dried out. It should be slightly moist, but not wet. Add a little water, only if needed. During this period, your dormant bulbs are not quite dormant. They are quietly building their root system, so they are ready to explode out of the ground when you bring them indoors and warm them up.

Important Tip: While you can chill bulbs in a refrigerator, they interact with many fruits in your refrigerator, and may fail to bloom.

After the minimum chilling period has been reached, bring your pots in. Place them in a warm, sunny window. Warmth is your bulbs' signal to awaken. As soon as they emerge from the ground, they need light to grow and bloom.

Right about now you are probably wondering about how long a particular bulb needs to be chilled and how long the growing period is to reach the blooming stage. Well, you guessed the answer.... it depends. It depends upon the particular bulb. In general, a bulb needs 6-12 weeks to "Chill", prior to forcing them. (See chat above).

Tip: To extend the blooms, move the pots to a cool location at night and while you are out of the house.

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