Bloom in the Gloom: Forcing Bulbs Indoors

WRITER | RACHEL WHITE

Let’s face it: the middle of the winter in Michigan can get a bit, well, gloomy. Why not bring a little spring color inside while you’re waiting for the snow to melt? By forcing a flower bulb, you get the benefits of the season a little early. And if the term forcing sounds harsh, just think of it as gentle cajoling. You’re simply tricking the bulbs into thinking that the cold stuff is over, and it’s time to come out.

There are two ways to do it. You can buy bulbs that have been specifically prepared for forcing (like the potted amaryllis you see at stores during the holidays), or you can purchase regular spring bulbs from a garden center or other source, which will take a little extra work on your part.  Prepare your own bulbs by chilling them for 10-12 weeks in your refrigerator crisper or an unheated garage. Once you bring them into your toasty warm house, they think it’s spring and start to grow – just like that. (Paperwhites are the exception – no need to chill).

Any spring bulb can be forced inside, but the most common are paperwhite narcissus, daffodils, amaryllis (red ones make gorgeous holiday decorations), crocus, hyacinths, and tulips. Which colors speak to your soul? Do you need a sunny yellow daffodil in your life? Are you done with the dark winter colors and craving some pastel tulips? Keep size in mind. The bigger the bulb, the bigger your flower will be.

You can force your bulbs in either soil or pebbles/marbles, etc., and you can put more than one bulb in a container. Don’t use soil from your garden; get some potting mix and make sure you use a pot that drains well. Terracotta works great. If you choose to use pebbles, find a pretty clear vase or bowl and place some pebbles or glass marbles in the bottom for stability. This will add interest to the arrangement and will look nice too.

Whether you use potting soil or pebbles, fill your container to about 3 to 4 inches from the top, then set the bulbs, point side up, so that the top third is showing. Next, add just enough water to touch the bottoms of the bulbs. If your bulbs get too wet, they could rot. The water is there for when the roots come out, which they will, sometimes within a couple of days! Your work is done! Bulbs prefer bright, indirect sunlight, so just set them in a sunny spot and add water when needed.

That first pop of green is so exciting!  The bulbs will sprout quickly, and in no time at all, you’ll have charming flowers. When they’re done blooming inside, the earth outside will be ready for them! They might even bloom again if they haven’t used up all of their energy. Simply cut the dead flowers off and plant them outside for round two.

There’s some sort of magic in fresh flowers – the pops of color, the fresh aroma. So bring some beauty and charm into your home this winter with bulbs and knock out the winter gloom.