Forcing Bulbs to Bloom Indoors

Tulips Flowers 2020

About Forcing Bulbs to Bloom Indoors

Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors during cold and snowy winter months, 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 now time to awaken into full bloom. Knowing the chilling time for bulbs is important for this stage of forcing bulbs. You are doing this fun garden project, 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!?! So, are you ready to learn how to force bulbs indoors!? Read on to learn how to force bulbs to bloom.

Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors is not difficult. It just takes time, patience, and a little advance planning. You need to acquire a few extra flower bulbs in the Fall when they are readily available in stores and on the internet.  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!?!

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How to Force Bulbs to Bloom Indoors

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

Use 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.

To force bulbs to bloom, most bulbs require a “chilling period”. Chilling time for bulbs is when the bulb you are forcing is dormant in a cool to a cold environment (see chart below). Consequently, this step simulates its natural underground winter home in cold soil. Most bulbs need this chilling period to force them to bloom. A couple of 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.

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.

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Amaryllis Flower Bulb

Chilling Time for Bulbs

Use this chart to determine the chilling time for each type of bulb, and how long until they bloom after bringing the pots indoors.

BulbChill Time (weeks)Weeks to Bloom
AmaryllisNone required5-10
FreesiaNone required2-3
Iris, Dwarf12-153-4
Lily of the Valley12-152-3
PaperwhiteNone required3-5
Scilia Tubergeniana12-152-3

Tip: You can chill bulbs before potting.

How to Grow Paperwhite Flower Bulb

Bringing the Flowerpot Indoors to Bloom

After the minimum chilling period has been reached, bring your pots into your home. Place them in a warm, sunny window. Warmth is your bulb’s signal to awaken. And, as soon as they emerge from the ground, they need plenty of 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. There are other factors, too. Most notably is the temperature of the room and receiving the right amount of moisture.

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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