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Forcing Bulbs - Start in Early Fall

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and other spring-flowering bulbs are a welcome sight in the garden in the spring. Many spring-flowering bulbs also can be forced indoors during winter.


hen buying bulbs, select large, firm bulbs. Avoid soft or blemished bulbs. Small bulbs may not bloom well.

Spring-flowering bulbs that can be forced indoors include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses. While many bulb varieties can be forced, best results are obtained by selecting varieties recommended for forcing. To enjoy spring-flowering bulbs in winter, gardeners must begin the forcing process in late summer or early fall. Gardeners need good quality bulbs, well-drained potting soil, and containers with drainage holes in the bottom.

Begin by partially filling the container (pot) with potting soil. Set the bulbs so that the tops of the bulbs are even with or slightly below the rim of the container. Place additional potting soil around the bulbs. However, don't cover the bulbs completely. Allow the tops (noses of the bulbs) to stick above the potting soil. After potting, water each container thoroughly.

In order to bloom, spring-flowering bulbs must be exposed to cold temperatures (35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) for 12 to 16 weeks. Possible storage sites include the refrigerator, unheated garage, root cellar, or cold frame.

Once the cold requirement has been met, begin to remove the potted bulbs from cold storage. For a succession of bloom, remove pots from storage at 10 to 14 day intervals. Place the bulbs in a cool (50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), semi-dark location. After several days, move the plants to a slightly warmer area that receives bright light. Keep the potting soil evenly moist during the forcing period. Flowering should occur in 3 to 4 weeks.

This resource was added August 2003 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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