The Q&A Archives: Forcing Hyacinth And Lilies For October Wedding

Question: I am getting married on October 11 or 12, 2002. I have never done any forcing - or worked with bulbs at all for that matter - but I absolutely love the idea of having a bouquet made of Lily of the Valley and Blue Grape Hyacinth. I am also considering Calla Lilies.

I want to do a trial run of the whole process next year so that I can be sure it'll work for my wedding. Will I have to buy new bulbs the second time around? When should I start? Also, how much sunlight will the plants need? My apartment gets about 4-5 hours of direct sunlight per day. (I can grow them at my parents' house if need be.)

Thanks for your time!


Answer: Unfortunately, forcing is rather difficult and season-sensitive. Bulbs such as hyacinths must be chilled for weeks and then slowly brought into active growth under controlled temperatures and in very bright light until they are ready to bloom. Even so, the timing is never exact and so several batches would need to be planted about a week apart in order to increase the odds of achieving full bloom on exactly the right day.

Lily of the Valley pips are shipped in the fall to be planted in the garden, undergo a winter chilling and establishment period and then bloom the following spring. Again, the results are somewhat unpredictable.

In any case, the number of weeks required to chill and then grow on to blooming exceed the number of weeks you would have from when they come on the market and the date of the wedding. Since the bulbs and pips are living things, they can't be held over from one year to the next, either. To be very honest, I just don't think you would be physically able to do what you have described.

Instead, you might want to consult with your florist as to which types of blooming plants are generally available at that time of the year and work from there. I'm really sorry I can't be more encouraging.

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