Grow Flowers in Winter by Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Skip the winter doldrums and grow a rainbow of blooms right inside your home. It's easy if you follow these steps for forcing bulbs indoors.

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Forcing Bulbs Indoors, Step-by-Step

forcing bulbs indoors, grape hyacinthIvonne Wierink/Shutterstock
Forced grape hyacinth bulbs blooming indoors

Keep your restless green thumb busy, no matter the weather. Grow a flower garden inside by forcing spring bulbs to bloom indoors. From daffodils and hyacinths to irises and tulips, the bright colors and sweet scents cheer up any gardener dealing with winter cabin fever. Just follow these simple steps to force bulbs for winter flowers.

Step 1. Pot the Bulbs

Fill a container most of the way with moist potting mix, or pebbles if you’re planting hyacinths and paperwhites. Create a shallow hole for each bulb and plant it root side down, 1 to 2 inches deep, leaving the tip exposed. Crowd the bulbs in, but keep them from touching one another.

Psst—these are the 10 best websites for buying flower bulbs online.

Step 2. Cool Them Down

If your bulbs aren’t pre-chilled, place the pot in a dark, cool spot, such as a garage, unheated sun porch or fridge. Keep them at a chilly 35 to 45 degree Fahrenheit. This process takes about 12 weeks to complete, but less for certain iris bulbs.

Step 3. Keep Tabs on the Bulbs

Potted Daffodils Blooming On Window Sill At HomeCristian Bortes / EyeEm/Getty Images
Potted daffodils blooming on a windowsill

Make sure the potting mix stays moist, watering gently as needed. The first flower tips appear within a few weeks. Once the emerging sprouts are an inch high, move the container into a cool, dim room for about a week as the stems and flower buds continue to grow.

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Step 4. Add Some Light

Pots and vases in springlike hues add a pop of color to your forced bulb displays.

Transfer the potted bulbs into a bright room; this will encourage them to bloom. Continue to water occasionally to ensure the soil stays damp. If the stems become tall or top-heavy, insert a slender stake into the pot. Then, sit back and enjoy!

Check out the top 10 bulbs to plant in fall that you aren’t growing yet.

Step 5. Stage a Comeback

When the blooms fade, you have two options: Compost the spent bulbs or try to save them for spring. If you’re going for a repeat performance, allow the foliage to die back, then plant the bulbs outdoors in spring as you normally would. Be prepared for the flowers to take a year off while they recover from their unexpected season.

Read more: The ultimate guide to planting spring bulbs

Forcing Crocus and Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors

Skip the soil and force crocuses and hyacinths to sprout in water. Use a narrow-necked vase that holds the bulb just above the waterline. Then, put in a cool, dark place until roots fully form. After sprouts are 2 to 4 inches tall, move to a warm, sunny room to finish flowering.

Get expert tips for growing grape hyacinth flowers.

Give a Gift That Grows

paperwhite kitVia Merchant

Share a piece of spring with your loved ones. Fill a small, decorative container with plump paperwhite bulbs. Include growing instructions and a separate pouch of clean pebbles or rock chips to act as the potting mix. Place everything in a gift bag and your plant present is complete!

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Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.