forcing bulbs

It’s a difficult thing, being a landscape architect and living in an apartment. I haven’t even got a little deck to grow tomatoes on or anything. So I force things to grow inside. I love the word ‘force’ – it really seems to add to my desperation. Anyhow. So this is for the rest of you apartment-dwelling-women out there.

Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors in the middle of winter can be tricky with some bulbs. Hyacinths, paperwhites, and amaryllis are the easiest. Today I started my first hyacinth of the season, and as soon as I get bigger pots, I’ll start some more. Here’s how to force a hyacinth.

Start with a pot with some dirt in it and a bulb. I bought ‘prepared’ hyacinth bulbs, because that just makes everything easier. ‘Prepared’ means that the bulbs have already been put through the 12 weeks of cold dormancy that is required before growing. Bulbs are designed to lay dormant through the winter before blooming, and if they don’t get that period of cold, they won’t ever bloom. If you get bulbs that aren’t already prepared, then you’ll have to pot them up and then stick them in a garage or shed or something for 12 weeks to get their cold fix.

So once you have your pot, soil, and bulb, put enough soil in the pot so that when you put the bulb in, the tip will be about level with the rim of the pot.

Now put the bulb in the pot and cover it with soil so that just the tip of the bulb is showing.

And now water it thoroughly.

Set it on a windowsill or with your other house plants! See how easy this is?

This hyacinth will probably be blooming right around Christmas. One more note on hyacinths – don’t force too many at once. This one hyacinth will perfume my whole apartment when it blooms, and any more would be overkill. My husband would probably be opening windows and turning on fans in the dead of winter.

Have fun!


4 Responses to “forcing bulbs”

  1. October 18, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I may have to try that. How much sun do they need and do they die easily? I have, what you might call, a black thumb. I’ve killed everything from orchids to cacti.

  2. 2 Betsy
    October 18, 2007 at 11:57 am

    I’ve killed orchids too. And aloe, which is sort of a cacti. They’re just impossible. Anyway. Not a whole lot of sun at all, actually. I put mine in a north facing window shaded by other houseplants. The thing to watch out for when forcing bulbs is over watering – you have to make sure not to rot the bulb. So as long as the pot has good drainage and you only keep the soil minimally moist, you should be fine!

  3. 3 Betsy
    October 18, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Oh, and those house plants in the picture? Only one of them has been with me for more than two months. I am notorious for letting them die. Ya gotta be tough to survive in this house.

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