2017-12-05 / Columns

Garden Scene with Peggy Bolton

Forcing Bulbs

Forcing bulbs is a way to keep spring in your home during the coldest and dreariest months. Although bulb-forcing kits are usually available, one may also find it cheaper and easier to simply plant bare root bulbs. By preparing your own bulbs for forcing, you will be able to have a much wider choice of color and variety.

It will take a forcing period of 35 to 105 days. Buying cold-treated bulbs will decrease the waiting period, but it will increase the initial bulb price. All forcing bulbs will need a cooling period of at least six to twelve weeks. This process may be achieved by placing containers in a refrigerator or outside in a cold frame. Containers must be kept dark, otherwise green elongated growth will appear. Bulbs need to be kept between 40 and 50 degrees.

The most important step in bulb forcing is to select a desirable variety. Bulbs that are especially suited to the process include crocus, iris reticulata, grape hyacinths, dwarf tulips, hyacinths and certain narcissus. Small bulbs are especially easy for the beginner and are also quicker to bud.

Bulbs will need a container with good drainage and a light, soilless mix. After planting, water the container heavily and allow it to drain in the sink for several hours.

If you have chosen the refrigerator method, place container in a plastic bag and tie the end. Now punch a few holes in the top of the bag to allow for air circulation. When a yellow-green top begins to develop, it is time to remove the pot from the chilling area. It will usually take about 10 weeks. You will be able to tell that bulbs have developed a solid root base by giving them a gentle tug.

Place the pots in a cool, dim location for about a week. After the transition time water the pot if it feels dry. Move plants into a sunny location.

Send specific questions to Country Grown Perennials LLC, Peggy Bolton, 4801 Pines Brook Road, Walton, NY 13856. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you wish to receive a personal reply. Visit us on the web at

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