Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Forcing bulbs indoors is something I’ve always wanted to do myself.

In the past, the closest I’ve come to forcing bulbs is either to buy the already potted up and sprouting tulips at the greenhouse, (You can read that post here) or to put bulbs, like paperwhites into a container with rocks and water on the bottom. Though that is still fun, I really wanted to try my hand at doing it all myself some year.

Then last summer I found a pair of large square terra cotta planters, (with tulips on the sides no less) at a garage sale and decided it was going to be the year I would do it, I would try forcing bulbs indoors, start to finish!

Here are the tips I learned: (many thanks to my dear friend Konnie, a master gardener, horticulturist, state nursery inspector and basically all-knowing of anything growing, for her encouragement and welcome advice)

I figured that since these pots were so large, I would have room to layer the bulbs in it, allowing a fuller and timed out display of blooms.

First I put in some soil. I chose potting soil that had a good amount of drainage.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Fill bottom with good draining soil

On top of that first layer of soil in went the daffodil bulbs. They need to be planted deeper than the rest.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Bottom layer started with daffodils

I poured on more potting soil completely covering the daffodils by a couple inches.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
A layer of soil over daffodils

On top of the daffodils and layer of soil I laid out the tulip bulbs.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Tulip bulbs added in middle layer

Then more soil…

then bone meal.

Oops, I think I was supposed to add that further down, but just remembered so I was hopful when I watered it would leach through all the soil.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
More soil and bone meal added over tulips

Last, just a couple inches from the top of the planter, went the smaller grape hyacinth bulbs.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Grape hyacinth bulbs added in the corners on top layer

I put those small bulbs just in the corners of the pots in groups of 3 or 4.

Then I placed the potted bulbs into the fridge. (remember: NO fruit can be in fridge with bulbs, gas from fruit will kill bulbs)

I only opened the fridge to check on the bulbs. Turned out, I only needed to water them every few weeks.

After about 13 weeks bulbs started to sprout.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Put in fridge for 14 weeks

I waited another week, then put them in front of the sunniest window we have, a south facing patio door in the dining room. Ideally, they would go to a cooler place, but this is all we had.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Sprouts turned green right away in daylight

As soon as the sprouts got out in the sunlight, they started to green up… it was within a few hours we noticed them looking greener!

When I put the 2 large pots out in the sunlight, I set each on a rolling caddy. The caddies would prevent moisture damage to the floor, as well as allow me to easily rotate the pots for equal sunshine. (see link for rolling caddy at end of post)

I continued to water them, just keeping soil moist.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Set planter on wheeled caddy to easily move

The bulbs grew rapidly, sending up the hyacinths first, but shortly followed by the center bulbs, (I think they’re the tulips?)

Here in NW Wisconsin, we have short days of sunlight in the winter… not to mention all the cloudy days we’ve had as it’s snowed and snowed this month. Therefore, I just didn’t think the bulbs were getting enough sunlight, so I added a bit more.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Added lights

I found full spectrum, (must be full spectrum for grow lights) in a pleasing ‘day light’ colored light. (frequently the full spectrum grow lights are bright pink! Super irritating to these light sensitive eyes, as well as distorting the coloring of the plants. (at the end of this post you can find a link with more technical information about pink grow lights and how to avoid them)

I found these 2 articulating lamps for the LED full spectrum bulbs that are working great for pointing the light right where it’s needed. (links for both the lamps and light bulbs are at end) I also like that the lamps have easy to reach on/off switches for a desk or nightstand as well as an outlet on the top of the base, like for a phone charger to easily plug into.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
lights help add daylight

The pots are in the dining room and I want it to look pretty, to have a hanging grow light, suitable for a garage or greenhouse, wouldn’t work here. The articulating lights are pretty, and I can use them elsewhere if I decide to not use them for grow lights on something else. I did have to search a bit to find a full spectrum, not pink, LED bulb with a regular screw-in base though!

A few days ago I noticed the grape hyacinths are starting to send up blooms.

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
First sign of a flower… baby grape hyacinths

They’re so beautiful!

Tips on Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Grape hyacinths blooming

To be honest, just having the green growing is such a welcome sight right now. We’ve had a record month of snow fall! Then to see those little blooms coming up, what a wonderful treat. I haven’t seen the other bulbs (daffodils, I think) pop up yet… I’ll keep you posted on Facebook/Instagram with progress. (if you don’t follow me yet on Facebook or Instagram, you can find the links at end)

I hope this post encourages you to force bulbs indoors too!

You can pick your own color and variety of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths etc. (so many choices!) and how great to know that when they’re done growing inside, I can plant them outside for a permanent home, and blooms each spring following. The tulips I guess don’t usually do so well once forced, but the hyacinths and daffodils are supposed to reproduce each year and do great. (I’ll let you know the outcome on that as well!)

If you start cooling bulbs now, they could be ready in May!

Helpful links: (some affiliate)

Here are more indoor and outdoor gardening tips:

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This post can also be found at: My Repurposed Life, A Stroll Thru Life, My Thrift Store Addiction, Worthing Court

Reader Interactions


    • Liz says

      Oh I know Donnamae… you’re in Wisconsin too, right? It’s been so much snow this winter! Take heart, spring will come. (I just hope it doesn’t all melt at once, we’ll wash away in the floods!)

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