Fall is a good time to plant flowering bulbs in the garden in anticipation for colorful spring blooms. Why not plant some indoors and enjoy the same beauty all winter?
Growing bulbs indoors, otherwise known as “forcing” which sounds quite aggressive, is a method of growing flowering bulbs in containers. Late summer to early fall is a great time to start as the bulbs require a 3-4 month cold treatment period in order to produce blooms.
Start by choosing appropriate bulbs for forcing. Those that produce quickly and stay compact are usually best. The better bulb suppliers will note which bulbs are suitable for forcing.
Start by filling a 6″ diameter terra cotta pot with slightly moist potting mix. Leave a 1-2″ gap at the top. Place the bulbs so they are touching. Make sure to orient with the pointed end up. Cover the bulbs with more potting mix so the tips of the bulbs are just poking out of the soil surface.
Now, find a spot in the house (or outside or even in the fridge) that will maintain a temperature between 35-42 F. The bulbs must stay cool but never freeze. Keep them dark cool and slightly moist.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! After 3 months (4 for tulip bulbs) there should be tall healthy stems growing up, maybe even some flower buds. Place the pot in a bright warm spot to induce flowering. Once you have a good number of flower buds bring the pots into the house and enjoy. Once flowering has begun, cooler (60-70 F) temperatures will prolong the blooming period, so keep them away from sources of heat.
After the blooms have faded you may keep the bulbs (with their leaves intact) in the pot placed in a cool spot with some light. As soon as the soil warms up plant them in the garden. They may bloom the following fall but may need an extra year to bloom well. Do not try to force them again, much better to start with fresh bulbs for that.