This post walks you through the steps I follow for forcing bulbs in the winter, including the best varieties to use and the process I follow.
January, February and March are always a challenging time for me since I live in the northeast. The ground is frozen, the sunlight is limited, and nothing in the garden is visibly growing. So one way I have adapted to this time period in winter is to grow flowers, specifically bulbs, inside.
It always gives me a boost when I walk out into the dining room and kitchen area and see flowers blooming. They always brighten my day and make me feel better. I assume that if these little flowers cheer me up through the winter blues, then they will make you feel better too.
There are a wide variety of bulbs that you can force and some require more effort than others. In this post, I am going to share those bulbs that work best for me.
Forcing Bulbs in Winter
The first thing we will need to do is gather our supplies. Forcing bulbs is easy so you won’t need many supplies.
I have linked supplies on Amazon, where possible. In addition to the bulbs you purchase, you may need:
Here are some varieties of bulbs for forcing
- Paper Whites
- Amaryllis (I linked the variety I am growing but there are plenty of other colors)
Amaryllis and Hyacinths come in a wide variety of colors. My favorite place to buy bulbs for forcing is from White Flower Farm. They consistently sell high quality bulbs that produce the best and biggest flowers. However, you can also buy bulbs from your local nursery, gardening stores, and even hardware stores. Of course, you can also buy them online from Amazon.
One of the benefits of forcing bulbs to bloom in the winter is that the flowers tend to last longer than other cut flowers. It is not uncommon for the flowers to last for several weeks, so long as they are watered properly and given enough sunlight.
Paperwhites are by far the easiest bulbs to grow in the winter. Try to buy bulbs that are a good size and that feel solid. It should feel like a good onion from the supermarket. Bulbs should not be soft or mushy.
After buying paper whites, I put them in a small paper bag in my refrigerator for several weeks. This helps to prevent the flowers from getting too leggy and tall. If they get too tall, they tend to flop over.
Having said that, you do NOT have to refrigerate paperwhite bulbs. They will grow just fine without being refrigerated.
Then, I simply add some pebbles to a vase or bowl and set the paper white bulbs on top. I used two of these 24 ounce bags of pebbles.
In this case I used an old ironstone chamber pot, filled it with pebbles, added the paperwhite bulbs and then added enough water to barely touch the bottom of the bulbs. Then I set them in a cool but sunny location. A south facing window is ideal! You can see in the photo above that these paperwhites have already started to grow and it will take 4-6 weeks before they bloom.
Amaryllis are another easy flower to force from a bulb. In some cases, you don’t need to do anything except place the bulb in a sunny location. I like to plant amaryllis in soil and tend to lightly water them. It’s not a necessary step – but I feel like I am taking better care of them.
This past Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive 5 amaryllis bulbs. I decided to plant all of them in a large basket to they could grow into one giant set of blooms. To protect the basket, I lined it with landscaping fabric first and then I added the potting soil for the bulbs.
After planting the bulbs, keep the soil slightly moist and be sure they are getting an adequate amount of sunlight. The amaryllis bulbs should bloom in 6 to 8 weeks. These will be so beautiful when they bloom with their pink and white hues.
Hyacinths are also extremely easy to force during the winter. In many cases, you can simply set them over a vase with water, they will send down roots and they will bloom. However, as I do with the amaryllis, I prefer to plant them in soil. Try planting 3 -5 bulbs together in one container for a beautiful effect. An added bonus is that hyacinths smell amazing.
These bulbs take the most amount of time to bloom. You will have to be patient because it will take between 12-20 weeks before they bloom. Trust me, it is worth the wait.
Store Bought Forced Bulbs
I would be remiss, if I also didn’t remind you that you can often times buy bulbs that have already been forced and are blooming. They are available at Trader Joes, nursery centers, and grocery stores. While I am waiting for my bulbs to grow, I will often supplement the table with store bought bulbs that are already in full bloom.
In some way, I feel like the already blooming store bought flowers, encourage my other bulbs to grow a little faster.
This was a more recent photo that was taken and you can see how one of the amaryllis is reaching its head just above the basket. I can’t wait for them to bloom! The paperwhites are steadily growing every day. The hyacinth, daffodils (large yellow flowers) and narcissus (small yellow flowers) are all store bought.
You can read about how that small rocking horse was transformed in a recent blog post. It was a fun and easy project to create.
Thank you for stopping by the blog today. I hope you found some inspiration as we pass through winter. Soon enough the snow will melt, the leaves on the trees will return and the garden will come back to life. Until then, I plan on having a steady stream of forced bulbs in virtually every room in my house.
Here are some photos of the forced bulbs after they bloomed!