Guide to Forcing Bulbs in January

The dreaded winter blues are hard to beat when the cold temperatures make spring feel sooo far away, truth be told, it is. On a positive note, we’re already half way through January! 😳 And luckily I have an awesome idea that will bring a little reminder of the spring months. I’m gonna start by ‘force planting’ bulbs of paperwhites and hyacinths. I already have a similar post I did a couple of years ago. It’s basically the same process only we’re forcing the bulbs in a different month for a spring preview.

Within a few weeks, my tables will be adorned with delicate blooms, lovely colors and amazing scents. As a bonus, after the blooming is over, I can plant the bulbs outdoors in the fall. All we need are some containers (or vases), a few bulbs and water. These will eventually turn into a beautiful display of instant spring!

How to force bulbs in water
  1. Fill a container with fresh water up to the neck and place the bulb, pointed side up, just inside the container, where the neck narrows. The base of the bulb should barely touch the water. Then set the container in a cool, dark place, I place them in the basement.
  2. Roots will form rather quickly and they’ll reach down into the water. While they don’t have to be entirely submerged in water you must have them touching the water. Check on them every couple of days, adding water as needed making sure the container never dries out completely. Do not over water or the bulbs will rot.
  3. When a healthy sprout has formed on top of the bulb and the container is filled with roots (usually within a few weeks) the plant can then be exposed to light and heat. Flowering will occur shortly thereafter.
    • When choosing your bulbs try to get the biggest and firmest bulbs you can find. These will yield hearty plants. They are also a sure bet when transplanting outdoors after blooming. Do this in the fall.
    • When using a container with a large mouth (opening) such as mason jars, you can easily force bulbs by adding pebbles or any other fairly inert substrate, such as gravel or marbles. Using seashells are a great way to display your bulbs if you’re following a coastal theme. This will help hold the plant up and also create a pretty display. Remember it’s the water that makes the bulbs grow/sprout.
    • Shallow bowls make great containers for forcing bulbs. For the most beautiful flowering, first add a layer of pebbles and then fit as many bulbs on top but avoid overpacking. Fill between the bulbs with more pebbles, leaving only the tip of the bulbs exposed. Add water up to the base of the bulbs and place somewhere dark and cool. Soon roots will form and the forcing is underway! (make sure to use ceramics or glass as stoneware is porous and can ruin your table)

And there you have it. That’s all it takes to force bulbs for a super early spring display. A simple project (the kids can help too) that will bring gorgeous and often scented blooms into your home or office during the dark days of winter.


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