Forcing Bulbs

Forcing Bulbs

Forcing bulbs is a great way to bring a little bit of spring into your house now. It’s easy to do, kids love it because you can almost see stuff growing, and it’s just plain fun!

Some of the most common bulbs used for forcing are paper whites and amaryllis, but there are many others you could try: any tulip, hyacinth or daffodil could be forced to bloom earlier and you only need a shallow dish, potting medium, some pebbles, and a little water.

At this time of year you probably can find paper whites or amaryllis in any big discount store or nursery. They are often sold over the holidays and make great gifts for the elderly and anyone wishing for a touch of spring.

Now that the holidays are often you can often find them steeply discounted and the cool thing is they usually come with a decorative bowl and instructions on how to do it.

I have to tell you though, that the first time I bought an amaryllis bulb, I bought one that was already starting to sprout and the box it was in was all torn up. I got it dirt cheap, but when I got it home I realized immediately that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with it. (The directions were missing from the box!) But it wasn’t hard.

There was a bag of soil medium that I put in a clay pot- about an inch bigger than the bulb. I added water to the medium, probably something like peat moss, until it overflowed the pot and then I let it sit for a while to absorb the water. When the peat moss was thoroughly damp, I drained the rest of the water off and hollowed out a sizable space in the center of the pot. I put the bulb in the hollow with the green shoots pointing up and covered it somewhat-about one third of the bulb was still visible- with the remaining peat moss. I set it next to my sink and watched what would happen. Within days it was growing taller. It grew so fast that I put a ruler in the pot next to it to see how many inches a day it would grow. It was fascinating.

It grew to almost two and a half feet tall, but not all varieties get that big. If you’re doing this with children bigger is better!

When it bloomed it was the most remarkable thing. It was a conversation piece all of January and half of February!

If you are doing any growing experiments with children, forcing bulbs is a must!

Paper whites are a form of Narcissi. What is awesome about forcing bulbs that are usual “Easter plants” is that the smells produced by these bulbs, especially hyacinth, are sooooo…. wonderful that I would just drink their aroma if I could.

Paper whites are especially nice for forcing because they need no cool storage. Other fall bulbs do, though so be sure to buy ones that have been in cool storage, especially for forcing.

If you buy bulbs dry from the nursery and they are not prepackaged for forcing, it is still easy to force bulbs to bloom.

To begin with you need a shallow bowl that will accommodate 4-6 bulbs. Layer the bottom of the bowl with pebbles or marbles and add water. Add just enough water so that you can easily see it but not enough to completely submerge your stones.

Now gently press the bulbs, fatter, flatter end, into your pebbles. The bulbs should be able to access the water but not be actually sitting in it. Put your dish in a bright location and then watch the magic, as they will start sending out shoots within days.

Bulbs can also be forced using peat moss. Fill your container with 1 ½ -2 inches of moist plant medium. Place your bulbs gently on top of the medium and sprinkle more medium around your bulbs but don’t bury them completely.

Put them in a bright window as before and they will start to grow. Keep the soil damp, but not wet. You don’t need to fertilize your bulbs because generally there is enough food for the plant stored in the bulb itself.

Spring may be a couple of months away yet, but you can enjoy a little bit of spring now by forcing bulbs to flower early.Below are pictures of paper whites that my sister just forced.

Aren’t they beautiful?

As always, thanks for gardening with Julie.

Related Articles:

Bulbs
Summer Bulbs
Cutting Flower Garden

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