Cheating Winter – The Bulbs Take Root

Last autumn, did you take our advice and pot up some bulbs for indoor forcing? We hope so! Here’s an update on how some of our potted bulbs are doing, and it provides plenty of how-to tips for anyone who might like to try this:


  • After we potted bulbs in late October, we put them in an outdoor shed. The shed is unheated (in Zone 5), but it’s attached to the house. We covered the bulbs with a couple of old flannel sheets. This helps modulate the temperature while keeping the bulbs in the kind of darkness they’d be experiencing if they’d been planted in the ground.
  • Every 2 to 3 weeks, we’ve been checking the soil for moisture. If the surface feels dry to the touch, we water sparingly.


  • To ensure the bulbs are kept at the proper temperatures, we placed a thermometer in the storage crate alongside the bulbs. We monitor it regularly to make sure the shed temperatures remain in a range similar to what’s going on outdoors as temperatures drop from fall to winter, but that, ideally, they never go below freezing for an extended period of time.


  • After about 10 weeks, we begin checking the pots to see if the bulbs have rooted. It’s simple to do. Being careful to hold the soil and bulbs in place, gently turn the pot over and look for roots emerging from the pot’s drainage holes. If roots are visible, the bulbs are ready for forcing. (If there are no roots, leave the bulbs in dark, cool storage.)


  • To keep a steady supply of forced bulbs blossoming indoors, we bring in only a few pots at a time over 3 to 4 weeks. The rest are kept in the shed until it’s their turn. By staggering the forcing, we enjoy spring flowers inside the house from January through March.


  • Once the pots are brought indoors, we encourage bloom by watering the bulbs and placing the pots under fluorescent lights in a cool room (below 65 degrees F). (If you don’t have a fluorescent light, put your pot in a sunny, south-facing window.) Depending on what type of bulbs you’ve potted, the blossom show will begin soon. Watch for our results in the next Bulb Forcing post!

(To read the first chapter in Bulb Forcing, click here.)