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Forcing Flowering Bulbs for Winter Color

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Potted Amaryllis

Amaryllis bulbs need no chilling period to bloom. They tend to bloom in the spring, if left to their own rhythms, but you can force them into bloom earlier.

Photo © Marie Iannotti

There are dozens of spring flowering bulbs that can be coaxed into bloom in mid-winter, when you really need them. Some require minimal effort, others require some pre-planning.

No Pre-Chilling Required

Not all spring bulbs require a cold period. Some are actually only hardy to zone 8 or 9 and won’t survive a winter chill. In this category are some of the easiest bulbs to force, including amaryllis, freesia and tropical narcissus like paper whites. To coax these bulbs into bloom:

1. Pot the bulbs, either in potting soil or water. If potting in water, either squeeze the bulbs tightly together in a shallow pot or anchor them with pebbles. Then pour in enough water to cover the bottom 1/3 to half of the bulb.

2. The bulbs will sprout within a week or two of potting. Keep the sprouted plants cool (about 50 degrees F.) and in indirect light for the first 2 weeks, then move into bright direct light and provide more warmth. The plants should flower within 4 weeks.

If this sounds too easy, try forcing some non-tropical bulbs that require a period of prechilling before they will bloom.

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