Autumn is traditionally the time to plant spring flowering bulbs in the garden, with daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, iris and crocus all popular choices. But while you’re planting bulbs in the garden, it’s a great idea to pot up some of those bulbs and ‘force’ them to flower early, so you can enjoy the blooms indoors before spring arrives.
Forcing spring bulbs isn’t tricky, you basically need to trick the bulbs into thinking it’s already winter, so that they grow and flower early. Here’s how.
- Spring flowering bulbs – crocus, hyacinths, miniature iris and miniature daffodils work well
- Plant pots – ideally twice as deep as your bulbs (please try to avoid plastic if you’re buying new ones)
- Potting compost
- Gardening gloves
- Garden trowel
- Plant labels
Put some compost in the bottom of your pot – how much you need will depend upon how deep you are supposed to plant your choice of bulbs. Check the bulb packet to see how deep they need to be, it’s important to get this right.
Pop the bulbs into the compost, pointy end up. Pack them in but try not to let them touch each other. The more you put in, the bigger the show when they flower.
Cover the bulbs with more compost – fill to just below the top of the pot – and water thoroughly. Remember to label each pot!
Place the pots in a cool, dark place – an unheated cellar, shed or garage are good options. Make sure the top of the soil is not exposed to light, covering the pots with a paper bag avoids this.
Check your pots every now and then; keep them damp but not wet.
When you see green tips poking through the soil, move the pots into a warm room indoors and they will flower in 2-3 weeks. Here’s a rough guide for each type of bulb on how long before you need to bring them indoors:-
- Crocus: 8-15 weeks
- Hyacinths: 12-15 weeks
- Miniature Iris: 13-15 weeks
- Miniature Daffodils: 12-15 weeks
If you have a specific date in mind when you want your bulbs to flower, work back from this. It’s worth noting that forcing bulbs isn’t an exact science, so you may not get flowers exactly when you want them – all part of the fun though!
Forcing spring flowering bulbs in pots is a lovely way to bring flowers and fragrance into your home in the depths of Winter. A pretty pot of bulbs that are about to flower also makes a lovely gift, this is how we did ours for Christmas last year:
The metal pots are from IKEA; we simply jazzed them up with some festive ribbon and a candy cane. They would also look fantastic in old terracotta pots, wouldn’t they?
This is a good gardening activity to involve children with too, how about potting up some bulbs for them to give as teacher or nursery Christmas presents? They could even get crafty decorating the pot and make a really personal gift.
Do you think you’ll have a go at forcing some spring bulbs this autumn? I’ve just planted some miniature iris with the aim of having them blooming for Christmas – fingers crossed!