Flower Show Prep: Forcing Bulbs

Forcing bulbs: The process involves planting bulbs in pots, chilling them to mimic winter and then moving to a warmer room temperature and sunny window to simulate the arrival of spring.

Bulb Cold Period Light Period
Hyacinth 12 – 15 weeks 2 – 3 weeks
Daffodil 12 – 15 weeks 2 – 4 weeks
Tulip 14 – 16 weeks 2 – 4 weeks

Planting bulbs
Use clay pots with drainage hole– scrub and disinfect previously used pots. Soak the pot at least 20 minutes before planting. Cover drainage hole with either newspaper or screening.

Fill the pot 1/3 – 1/2 full with potting mix (without fertilizer), place bulbs on surface (pointed side up). Pack the bulbs close together, but not touching 5 bulbs per pot. Suggestion: flat side of tulip bulbs should face outwards towards the wall of the pot (they tend to grow more gracefully). Fill in soil around bulbs, leaving the tips exposed and leave ½” space to rim for watering.

Give the pot a good soak overnight in a bucket of water up to the pot rim or set it in a saucer and water from below. Drain well. Soil should be evenly moist, but never soggy. Label each pot.

Determine where you are going to cool down your bulbs……an old refrigerator or an unheated basement or garage are good choices. Spring flowering bulbs required 12 to 15 weeks at temperatures between 35 – 40+ degrees.  Pots can be kept moist by placing them in a loosely tied plastic bag. Do not let the bulbs freeze.

Growing Stage
After recommended chilling period, check bulbs and move into light. Top growth should be about 1 – 2” tall. Place them in a sunny window, preferably a southern exposure. Do not let pots dry out during the growing stage and be sure to rotate every day or so. If they are growing too quickly, put them back in cooling spot/refrigerator. Cold and dark slow growth – warm and light speed it up. 

Additional information on “forcing bulbs” can be found online.

Two (2) important items for Flower Show entries:
*Use 8” diameter clay pots (measured across the top of the pot) for all bulb varieties
*Plant five (5) bulbs of the same variety in each pot