We you are feeling like you haven't seen a growing flower for the longest time and it's getting you down, it is the time of year to force bulbs! You can force almost any bulb that is to be planted in the fall to bloom in spring. Just plant it up during the winter and in a few weeks, you'll have flowers! This works with daffodils, paper whites, muscari, chionodoxa, amaryllis and more!
What Bulbs Should Looks Like
Here are a bunch of bulbs, nice and dry and good flaky skin. They should be like onions: firm and white on the inside with dry flaky layers covering the bulb.
Here is a medium sized bulb. That brownish area is no big deal and those roots look shriveled, but they'll come back to life.
These are the roots. Plant them down and plant the point up towards the top of the soil!
When you see a bulb like this with a giant crack down the middle, don't despair! This is actually a baby bulb that has formed, so you get double your money!
Here are two that are ready to split. When you find bulbs like this, just gently pull them apart and plant them separately.
This is a throw away bulb. You can see how wrinkled the skin is. When you squeeze the bulb it is soft inside instead of firm. You would also want to throw away or potentially compost bulbs that have any visible mold or disease on them.
Forcing Bulbs In Soil
When you plant bulbs for forcing there is no reason to spread them out like you would in the ground, because they will get planted out in the ground before they really need the nutrients. All of the energy needed to bloom is already in the bulb.
Fill in a pot or container 1/2 full of dirt. It needs good drainage so the bulbs and roots don't sit in water and rot. Then put the bulbs where you want them to grow, root side down. Pile the soil on the planted bulbs and gently pack the soil in around the bulbs. Plant the bulbs as deep as you normally would, depending on the type of bulbs you are growing. Typically 4-8 inches deep is best as a generic guidance.
Fill in the pot the rest of the way with little bit of dirt to completely cover the rest of the bulbs. Leave at least 2 inches from the top of the dirt to the top of the container, so water doesn't run out the sides when you water the plants.
Then water the entire pot pretty forcefully to work the soil down around the bulbs into all the spaces. Top off the bulbs with another few inches of soil if necessary and then just wait!
Re-Planting Forced Bulbs In The Spring
After blooming, plant the bulbs out in the garden where the leaves will collect sunlight and the roots will draw nutrients from the soil to prepare the bulb for the following year. The bulbs might not bloom the next spring after forcing, but they should come back the following year. You can do this anytime up until the ground is frozen solid. Once the ground thaws, you can transplant at that time as well.
What To Do If Forced Bulbs Don't Grow or Bloom
- Be patient...it sometimes takes longer than you think.
- Stop watering so much. You can cause bulbs to rot if there is standing water on them. Don't water until the top inch of soil is dry. You can pick up watering when growth picks up.
- Move the bulbs somewhere a little warmer (so they think it is spring!)
Forcing Bulbs In Water
If you are interested in forcing bulbs in water, it is a little more difficult, but it does look very cool. Click on the link above to learn more about it.