New Year, New Blooms: Forcing Bulbs for Flower Magic
You’ve made it through the whole year and it’s time to celebrate. Although the trees are bare and the flowers have fallen asleep, the winter weather leaves us wanting growth to reflect our own. Sometimes you have to collaborate with nature to encourage blossoms when there are none -- that's where bulb forcing comes in.
Holiday favorites Amaryllis and Narcissus bulbs are easy to grow and can bloom in a matter of weeks with minimal effort. A rewarding holiday tradition, forcing bulbs indoors is a cinch, and if you plant now you will have vibrant flowers to celebrate the new year!
Forcing Bulbs Indoors
Bulbs - Amaryllis bulbs produce large trumpet-shaped flowers that come in a variety of colors, while Narcissus are dainty cluster bloomers in white. Often called Paperwhites, they're related to daffodils and are often very fragrant -- not for the scent sensitive!
The substrate: rocks, soil or other - The substrate is pretty simple here, as long as there is room for the bulbs to breathe, and it is sturdy enough to help hold the flowers upright. At both Pistils locations you can visit our terrarium bars where an array of substrates, colored rocks and sand encourages you to let your creativity run wild.
Container - This one is also up to your imagination but we prefer glass containers (which will allow you to watch the roots grow!) or something with a sturdy base as amaryllis and narcissus bulbs can become top-heavy when flowering. Forcing bulbs in multiple in a container makes for a showy center piece.
How to Grow
- Place at least 1/2” of rocks (or whatever substrate you’re using) at the bottom of your container, take the bulbs and arrange them on top of the rocks so that the green end is facing up and the roots are facing down
- Add more substrate so that about 1/3-1/2 of the bulb is covered, making sure to allow the green end to poke through
- Add enough lukewarm water so that the water level rises just to the bottom of the bulb. You want the roots to stay wet at all times. Place in a bright area and change the water out every 5-7 days
- If the bulbs are completely submerged in water they will rot so be careful not to overfill your container and change the water if it hasn’t evaporated between waterings
- Using warm or lukewarm water and keeping the ambient temperature above 60° will encourage faster bloom times
- Flowers can appear in 3-8 weeks when forcing bulbs, depending on variety and conditions, so patience is key
- To discourage your Paperwhites from becoming top-heavy, try watering them with an alcohol solution (the alcohol content should be more than 10%). The bulbs will grow to 1/3-1/2 their regular size, and stay upright!
After The Blooms
Forcing bulbs doesn't end this season. You can grow and re-bloom your Amaryllis and Narcissus by caring for them until next fall. Snip the spent flower stems leaving an inch at the base and continue to water them weekly. Starting in spring, fertilize your bulbs bi-weekly. You can even plant them in pots and keep them outside. By the end of the summer decrease watering. Once the weather cools in fall you can uproot your bulbs and snip off the green tops.
Then, keep them in a dark cool place in paper bags or a cardboard box for 6-8 weeks. Start the process of forcing bulbs again in winter when you're ready to see some new growth!
By: Amelia Ralston Okabayashi