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Bring a Touch of Spring into your Home by Forcing Bulbs 
By Monica Resinger

Forcing bulbs is a method of bringing a spring bulb into flower before its' 
natural flowering season and out of its' natural surroundings. To force a hardy 
bulb into flowering indoors, we need to trick it by mimicking what would 
happen to it in its' natural surroundings. 

Why would we want to do this?
To have flowers blooming inside your house in the bleak of winter can lift 
your spirits and brighten up your home. If you force a fragrant bulb, such as 
hyacinth, you will also scent your home with a wonderful aroma.

What bulbs can you force? 
You can force just about any spring bulb including, but not limited to: 
snowdrops, grape hyacinth, crocus, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth. Catalogs 
usually identify forcing varieties. 

How do you force bulbs? 

The only requirement in this department is cleanliness. When you are choosing 
a container, keep in mind that clay dries out faster so you would have to 
water more often. But, clay pots usually are more attractive, so the choice is 
to you. 

Bulb Choice
If you are buying your bulbs from the garden center, choose bulbs as you 
would produce at the grocery store. Don't buy a bulb that is squishy, has 
blemishes, or small in size compared to others. Look for a firm, good-sized 
bulb that 
looks healthy. You will need a high quality bulb for forcing because the bulb 
contains the food for the upcoming flower. 

How Many?
Groups of three to five look best. You can plant as many bulbs as will fit in 
your container as long as the bulbs aren't touching each other or the edges 
of the container. 

Planting Medium
A mixture of equal parts potting soil, sand, and perlite is best since bulbs 
need moisture and drainage. If you would like to plant your bulbs outdoors 
after forcing, add one teaspoon of 5-10-5 dry fertilizer to every quart of the 
planting medium. Moisten the planting medium to a damp consistency before 

Hyacinths and narcissus can be forced in pebbles and water with no additional 
nutrients, but the bulb will never be able to flower again if using this 
method and should be disposed of after flowering. Put washed pebbles in the 
of a narrow glass container and cover with water. Set the bulb slightly 
`into' the pebbles so it will stand. Bulbs should be cleaned before placing 
them in 
the container. The container should be kept in a cool (45 to 50 degrees), 
dark location until tip growth is 3 to 4 inches long and the flower cluster 
emerges from the bulb. This may take 8 to 12 weeks. When the top growth is well 
developed, move the container to a cool, bright window.

Fill your container half-full with the planting medium then set a bulb 
pointed end up on top of the medium. If the tip of the bulb isn't level with 
the top 
of the container, add or take out soil to make it so. Plant bulbs pointed end 
up and as close together as possible without letting them touch. Fill in with 
planting medium and water well. Label the pot with the name of the bulb and 
date of planting. 

Cooling Period
Place pots in a cool dark place such as a refrigerator or in an unheated 
garage. If necessary, place a box or a black garbage bag over the pots to keep 
them dark. Temperatures should be 35-48* F. Keep the soil moist during this 
rooting and cooling period. After five to six weeks, the roots should start 
out of the bottom of the containers of large hardy bulbs. 

Out of Cold Storage
When shoots are two to three inches and there are fine white roots coming out 
of the drainage holes, it's time to bring the pots out of cold storage. This 
could take from 12-16 weeks. At this point, bring the pot to a cool room such 
as an unheated bedroom where it will be in the 50`s. They will need indirect 
light and adequate moisture. Feed weekly with half strength houseplant 
fertilizer. Turn the pots every other day or so to keep the stem growing 
straight. In 
a week or two the stems will grow taller and the buds will become plump. 

Into Bright Light
When the foliage and buds are well developed, bring them into a bright, sunny 
window where the temperature is around 65*F. When they start to flower, move 
them to indirect light to prolong the flowers. 

After Flowering
When the bulbs have finished flowering, cut off the stem and move the pot 
back to direct light. Keep the foliage growing until it starts to die back. 
pull off the dying leaves because these contain food for next years' flowers. 
Stop watering and store the bulbs in a cool dry place until late summer or 
early fall when they can be planted into the garden. By planting the bulb into 
the garden, they will regain their strength and show healthy flowers in the 
next season or two. If you want to force bulbs again, don't use the same bulb 
you did the year before because forcing weakens the bulb and the flowers will 
be unsatisfactory. Instead, start over and shop for fresh, healthy bulbs. 

Why not give it a try and bring a touch of spring into your home this winter? 

For more gardening tips, check out The Gardening Tips E-book here:

Get Monica's FREE e-zine for homemakers!  Each issue includes a home & garden 
article, delicious recipes and more! To subscribe, just send a blank e-mail 
Check out the 56 home, garden and recipe e-books full of reader tips that 
have been published here:

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