Figaro's Blog

November 1, 2023

Forcing Bulbs Indoors for the Holidays: Figaro’s Garden Guide

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While November ushers in the chilly weather in Vancouver, it’s also the perfect time to explore the art of forcing bulbs indoors to brighten your home for the upcoming holiday season. At Figaro’s Garden, your go-to Vancouver garden centre, we’ve got everything you need to master the technique of forcing bulbs indoors. Let’s delve into the world of forcing bulbs such as amaryllis, paperwhites, and hyacinth.

A hand holding a hyacinth bulb, about to plant it in a shallow container along side other hyacinth bulbs for forcing

Like the other bulbs described here, when forced for indoor growing. hyacinths look nice sown in shallow containers.

What Does “Forcing” Bulbs Mean?

Forcing bulbs is the horticultural practice of simulating the natural conditions required for bulbs to bloom by manipulating factors like temperature, light, and moisture, allowing them (or “forcing” them) to flower indoors during periods when they would typically remain dormant in outdoor garden settings. This technique ensures that your home is graced with spring blooms even in the heart of winter, making it a delightful way to enjoy a burst of colour and fragrance during the holiday season. Potted bulbs also make wonderful holiday and hostess gifts.

Forcing Bulbs Indoors: Amaryllis Elegance

Forced amaryllis bulbs are renowned for their striking, trumpet-shaped blooms available in various colours such as red, white, and pink, making them an ideal choice to infuse your home with elegance during the holiday season.

Amaryllis in bloom

A single amaryllis bulb may produce one, two, or three stalks. A flower stalk will often have 2 to 4 blooms.

How to Force Amaryllis Bulbs Indoors

  • Choose a pot just slightly larger than the bulb (a 6″ pot is typically ideal). Make sure it has drainage holes or add a layer of drainage material at the bottom.
  • Plant the amaryllis bulb in well-draining indoor soil such as Figaro’s own Tropical Potting Blend, ensuring the top third of the bulb is above the soil line. Firm gently.
  • Position the potted bulb in a brightly lit area (ideally direct sun, but amaryllis will also tolerate indirect sun). The stalk will grow toward the light, so rotate the pot regularly to encourage even growth.
  • Initially, water sparingly, gradually increasing the watering as the plant grows. Avoid watering the bulb directly.
  • In roughly 6-8 weeks, your amaryllis will be in full bloom. Cool temperatures will extend the bloom time.

Paperwhites: Fragrance and Beauty Indoors

Paperwhites, or indoor narcissi, are known for their delicate white blossoms and sweet fragrance. They are the perfect choice for those looking for a simple, elegant and aromatic potted bloom. They can be grown in a range of vessels and mediums: start them in potting soil and a standard planter, or use pebbles, marbles, LECA or other growing medium at the base of a vase or other container. Plant every two weeks for a succession of blooms all winter.

If they are kept in cool conditions paperwhites will last longer in flower. This will also help prevent them from getting too tall and flopping over.

How to Force Paperwhite Bulbs Indoors

  • Select a container and fill to the level desired with potting soil, pebbles, marbles, or LECA.
  • Plant the paperwhite bulbs, leaving space between each and ensuring the top half is left exposed.
  • Add water to the container, ensuring it reaches just below the base of the bulbs.
  • Position the container in a cool, well-lit location.
  • Stalks will grow toward the light, so rotate regularly to encourage even growth.
  • Adding a teaspoon of vodka to your watering can will help keep the stems and leaves shorter.
  • In approximately 6-8 weeks, your indoor space will be graced with the delightful scent of blooming paperwhites.
  • For Christmas flowering, keep containers at 10°C until the beginning of December.
  • Compost after flowering; paperwhites are not hardy outdoors.

Hyacinth: Fragrant Blooms Indoors

Hyacinths are prized for their vibrant, colourful blooms and intoxicating fragrance, making them an excellent choice for forcing bulbs indoors. Make sure to choose “prepared hyacinths”—bulbs that have been pre-chilled in preparation for indoor forcing—to add a burst of colour and scent to your holiday home.

A hyacinth bulb in a special forcing vase.

Hyacinth bulbs can be grown in water using a special forcing vase.

How to Force Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors

  • Hyacinths can be grown in shallow containers and in well-draining indoor soil. They can also be grown without any soil. A specially designed forcing vase is best for this purpose. These have a wide base for the water and roots, and a narrow neck that holds the bulb just above the water.
  • Hyacinth bulbs have a powdery coating that can cause skin irritation, so it’s best to wear gloves when handling them.
  • Add 2 to 3” inches of Tropical Potting Blend to the bottom of your container and set the bulbs on top, pointy-end up and about 1” apart. Cover with more soil, until the tips are about an inch below the soil surface.
  • Water the soil well to settle the bulbs in, and place containers in a cool, well-lit area. As the hyacinths grow, water regularly.
  • You can either compost the spent bulbs after flowering, or plant in the garden. Forced bulbs usually need to undergo another chilling period before flowering again.

Note that, unfortunately, most bulb plants—including those listed here—are toxic to pets. If growing in or gifting to a house with cats or dogs, ensure these plants are kept out of reach.

Forcing bulbs indoors is a surefire way to enhance your home’s ambiance for the holidays. At Figaro’s Garden, we’re here to assist you in selecting the perfect bulbs and offering expert guidance on successfully forcing bulbs indoors. Let’s make this holiday season truly special by bringing the beauty of forced bulbs indoors. Happy gardening and happy holidays!


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