Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
November, 2001
Regional Report

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If you plant now, you can force bulbs to bloom indoors out of season. These cheerful daffs will certainly chase away the winter blues.

Force Bulbs for Winter Bloom

I always get carried away when purchasing spring flowering bulbs. There's such an enticing assortment available, blooming in colors and shapes I simply must have, that I always end up with more bulbs than I have room to plant. If you ordered bulbs to plant this fall and didn't get them all in the ground, why not consider starting a few indoors to help chase away the winter blues?


I've found that the standard paperwhite narcissus, along with the yellow versions 'Grand Soleil d'Or' and 'Chinese Sacred Lily,' grow well in water and pea gravel. The bulbs swell considerably during growth so place them at least 1 inch apart in your container. A four-inch pot can hold one bulb. A six-inch pot can hold three, and a seven-inch pot, five or six. Place bulbs so their necks stick out about one-half inch above the gravel surface. Fill with water to just below the gravel.

For best growth, put pots in a dark location with temperatures from 40 degrees to 55 degrees F for two weeks, or until you have two to four inches of top growth and a vigorous bed of roots. I think a cool basement or garage is perfect for this root growth phase of forcing. Once top growth is visible, bring the pots into a bright, warm place. In about 4 weeks you'll have a mass of blooms with a heavenly fragrance.

Other Bulbs

Paperwhite narcissus requires little cold, but most other bulbs, including tulips and daffodils, require a chilling period. Start by choosing bulbs marked "suitable for forcing" as varieties differ in their growth habits. Next, pot bulbs in a good potting soil. For tulips, place three bulbs in a five-inch pot, five or six in a six-inch pot. For daffodils and hyacinths, place one in a four-inch pot or three in a six-inch pot if their size permits. You may place more in the larger, more shallow bulb "pans."

Water well after planting, and place in a dark area at 40 degrees F for 12-15 weeks. These conditions allow bulbs to form roots and prepare to produce flower stalks. A refrigerator is ideal, if you have the room to spare! If not, you can place the pots outdoors under a thick layer of straw or in a cold frame.

Keep the soil slightly moist. After three to four months, remove and place in a warm, lighted area, and watch the flower buds grow and develop. To spread the bloom throughout the winter, don't pot all your bulbs at once. Instead, pot up at two-week intervals for a continuous succession of winter bloom!

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