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Growing Daffodils Indoors – Forcing Daffodils Into Bloom

Growing Daffodils Indoors – Forcing Daffodils Into Bloom


By: Heather Rhoades

Forcing daffodils into bloom is an excellent way to help stave off mid-winter blues. Seeing a bright yellow daffodil indoors while the daffodils outside are still fast asleep under snow is enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Let’s look at how you can force daffodils into bloom inside.

Growing Daffodils in Water or Soil

First, choose which growing medium you will use to grow a daffodil indoors. Your choices are water or soil.

If you choose water, you will need to get a forcing glass, which is a cup specially designed to hold the daffodil bulb upright over water. Each forcing glass will hold one daffodil. This is an excellent choice if you only want to grow a few daffodils to brighten up a dark corner.

Forcing daffodils in soil is more common and just as satisfying. You will need a shallow dish and some indoor potting soil. Use a dish that is big enough to hold all the bulbs you intend to grow and is as deep as the daffodils are tall. The dish should also have drainage holes. If it does not, add a thin layer of gravel to the bottom of the dish.

Choosing Daffodil Bulbs

Next, choose the bulbs you will use to force daffodils. Look for plump bulbs with skin that is not loose. It’s okay if the bulb has sprouted some, just be careful that you do not damage the sprout.

Planting the Daffodil Indoors

If growing in water, fill the forcing glass with plain water and set the bulb on top of the glass.

If growing in soil, cover the bottom of the dish with soil, high enough so that the top third of the bulb will stick up over the top of the dish when they are planted. Now, place the daffodil bulbs on the soil. They can be placed as tight as side by side. Cover the bulbs with additional soil, leaving the top third of the bulb above the soil. Water the soil, but do not drown the bulbs.

Care of Your Daffodil Indoors

If growing daffodils in water, once your daffodil bulbs have some roots, add 1 teaspoon of vodka. The vodka will stunt the growth of the stem, so that the bulb will be less likely to fall over. It will not affect the blossom at all.

If you are growing daffodils in soil, water as needed. When forcing daffodils, fertilizing is not necessary. The bulb has everything it needs inside it to create a lovely flower, so you do not need to fertilize.

Taking the time to force daffodils in your home can help make the long winter seem much shorter. Forcing daffodils is both easy and fun.

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6 Simple Steps to Force Bulbs Into Bloom

Punxsutawney Phil, everyone's favorite seasonal prognosticator, predicted six more weeks of winter yesterday. Blah! You can beat the winter blues and invite spring indoors by enticing some blooms to flower before the mercury rises, like Lena Schlabach, author of Lena's Amish Granola, did with this trio of tulips in her ironstone bowl. Patience is key when it comes to fooling Mother Nature. It can take six to eight weeks for flowers to bloom, but in just six simple steps, fragrant hyacinths, vibrant tulips and daffodils, and sculptural crocus can decorate your tabletop.

Here's how to cultivate your green thumb before the snow thaws:

1. Whatever type of flower you decide to force, buy the largest bulbs you can find. The bulbs should be firm and free from nicks and bruises.

2. Choose a pot with drainage holes that's at least twice as deep as the bulbs to allow for proper root growth. Fill the pot halfway with soilless potting mix.

3. Place lots of bulbs in the pot, allowing for six inches of space in between them.

4. Cover the bulbs with potting mix, leaving the tips exposed. Water thoroughly, loosely cover the pot with a paper bag, and place in a cool (35 to 45 degrees F), dark place. An unheated attic, basement, or attached garage works (unless it's extremely cold).

5. Once a week, check the moisture in the pot. You want to keep the soil damp but not wet.

6. When you see green sprouts emerging from the bulb tips, move the pot to a warm room when flower buds form, place the pot in a sunny spot and when flowers bloom, remove the pot from direct sunlight to make the flowers last longer.

Tell us: What flowers have you had success forcing? Any helpful tips to pass along?


Preparing Bulbs To Force Indoors

4 Photos

This 10-inch bulb pan (at a local garden center) might accommodate a single layer of tulips with some minor bulbs set below, but 11 tulips pretty much maxes out the space in this size pot. Bulb pans are available from 6 inches in diameter up to12 inches in diameter, and some garden centers have double-depth pots for layered plantings.

Three spring-flowering bulbs each with its "nose" up and terra cotta (clay) bulb pans, behind. Can you see the flat side of the tulip bulb? What are the other two? ANDREW MESSINGER

A lawn area of about 2 square feet that was infested with the invasive annual Japanese stiltgrass. Sprayed with Burnout, an organic herbicide, the stiltgrass dies within hours. The remaining perennial grasses will reemerge. The spot can also be overseeded the next day. ANDREW MESSINGER

Fall colors showing up in the central Catskills last weekend. This is the weekend to get out and travel north and west to see the magnificent oranges, reds and yellows because in a week the colors will dull north of Dutchess and Orange counties. ANDREW MESSINGER

This 10-inch bulb pan (at a local garden center) might accommodate a single layer of tulips with some minor bulbs set below, but 11 tulips pretty much maxes out the space in this size pot. Bulb pans are available from 6 inches in diameter up to12 inches in diameter, and some garden centers have double-depth pots for layered plantings.

Three spring-flowering bulbs each with its "nose" up and terra cotta (clay) bulb pans, behind. Can you see the flat side of the tulip bulb? What are the other two? ANDREW MESSINGER

A lawn area of about 2 square feet that was infested with the invasive annual Japanese stiltgrass. Sprayed with Burnout, an organic herbicide, the stiltgrass dies within hours. The remaining perennial grasses will reemerge. The spot can also be overseeded the next day. ANDREW MESSINGER

Fall colors showing up in the central Catskills last weekend. This is the weekend to get out and travel north and west to see the magnificent oranges, reds and yellows because in a week the colors will dull north of Dutchess and Orange counties. ANDREW MESSINGER

Hampton Gardener®

Two weeks ago, we began to take a look at getting a jump on spring, indoors, in the middle of winter by forcing spring bulbs into bloom. But, as I noted, the time to start this work is now, right now! This week, the steps involved in the potting and chilling of the bulbs, how to do the forcing, and some of my favorite varieties of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils that I’ve had success with.

First a little buying tip. Remember that the flower for the bulb that will emerge next spring has already been formed. There is little you can do now to make that flower bigger, but all these bulbs are graded by size and, for example, you may find one variety of tulip in three different size bulbs. The largest bulbs produce the largest flowers, and the largest bulbs are usually the ones sold singly and not prepackaged. In this case, bigger is indeed better.

Also consider that the different bulbs — and in some cases, even different varieties of the same bulb — can require different cooling periods. For this reason this project becomes much more complicated if you try to mix and match tulips, hyacinths and daffodils in the same pot. It’s not impossible, but it does take some experience. For now, do different pots for different varieties. Still, if you have cooling space to experiment with then you can try mixing them up. But keep the smaller varieties, for example crocus, on the outside of the pot with taller varieties like tulips toward the inside. And keep notes so that in succeeding years you can learn from your mistakes and create some amazing forced pots.

Now comes the part that most people have trouble with: the cooling.

Remember that what you’re trying to do is fool the bulbs into thinking that they have been planted outdoors in cool soil. As the soil temperature drops to the 50s and 40s, root development starts and continues until the soil cools to the 30s when the roots are finished growing. This means that the “forced” pots need to be in a refrigerator, wine cellar, unheated garage or cold frame, or buried in the ground and covered with about 2 inches of soil. Alternatively, put the pots on the ground and mound soil over them (and use rodent-repelling bulb dips or wire cages).

In the refrigerator, the potted bulbs should go into a vegetable crisper where the humidity is higher or inside a loosely sealed plastic container or plastic bags on a shelf. Remember that modern frost-free refrigerators suck the moisture out of the air, thus no frost. But, the same refrigerator will suck the moisture out of your pots (and bulbs) and dry them out. The crisper or a plastic container or a plastic bag with a few “breathing” holes will keep the pots evenly moist, though some water may need to be added in the first six to eight weeks of cooling.

If you have a spare refrigerator you can even start your pots on the top shelf where it will be a bit warmer, and then after a month or so move them down to the lower shelves where it will be several degrees cooler. You might even stuff the refrigerator and once or twice fiddle with the internal thermostat slightly to make it cooler — just don’t freeze the bulbs.

Burying the pots may present a bit of a problem. While the temperatures will be perfect, if the soil is frozen when you want to retrieve the pots — ya got a problem. The soil needs to be kept slightly moist, not wet, until they are frozen and may need watering if there is a thaw of a couple of days or more.

With some luck and cooperation from Ma Nature, by the 1st of February you’ll have 12 weeks of cooling, and your first pots can be brought into a warmer spot for a few days, though the majority of your pots should have a couple of weeks or longer of cooling. Thaw the pots gradually and don’t rush them into a sunny bright room or they’ll force too quickly.

One year, some of our tulips that were potted on October 29 were brought out of the cold frame on February 2 and flowered March 1, but this can vary from variety to variety because another tulip done at the same time bloomed a week earlier. As a rule of thumb, it should take three to four weeks to get blooms from the time cooling is stopped.

As the foliage begins to emerge you may want to insert two to three thin, foot-tall bamboo stakes around the perimeter of the pot to support the emerging leaves and stems that can get a bit floppy. The stakes can be cut to size as the flowers develop, and green garden twine can be used to create a cage around the stakes that will hold the plants upright and rigid. Once the plants fill in and bloom, the stakes and twine should be unnoticeable.

A good sign that a particular pot is ready to be forced or brought in is when you see roots coming out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. But while this works with tulips, it may not work with all bulbs.

Unfortunately, once a bulb is forced it’s usually not planted in the garden. It’s kind of tough planting them in February or March and their internal timing clocks are all screwed up, though some people tell me that they’ve had some success in getting forced daffodils to rebloom in the garden the following year. If you can keep the foliage growing until the ground is workable, tulips may be plantable. But it may be several years before they flower again, so the cutting garden would be a great place for planting them.

Some quick tips: Bulbs should always go into the pots “nose,” or point, up. Tulip bulbs have a flat side which should face the pot rim. Double-nosed daffodil bulbs will ruin the blooming symmetry. A 6-inch pot will hold up to six tulips or three daffodils or more than 15 crocus. Use a deeper pot and you can add layers of bulbs. Fill the pot. Don’t leave spaces between the bulbs.

Here’s a short list of some bulbs that I’ve forced and been very satisfied with, and if you’ve got some favorites of your own please let me know. Tulips (16 weeks) Cassinni, Merry Widow, Palestrina, White Hawk, Apricot Beauty (my favorite), Peerless Pink and Tambour Maitre. Try to avoid the tallest tulips as well as the very shortest varieties. Hyacinths (12 to 16 weeks) Amethyst, Blue Jacket, Jan Bos, L’Innocence, Pink Pearl, Delft Blue and Carnegie. Crocus (10 weeks) Pickwick, Remembrance, Peter Pan, Flower Record, Jean d’Arc, and Purpurea Gradiflora. Daffodils (12 to 16 weeks) Barrrett Browning, Brida Crown, Dutch Master, Ice Follies, Salome, Pink Charm, Tete-aTete, Jenny and Cheerfulness. You’ll find more varieties, charts and more information here: extension2.missouri.edu/g6550. Keep growing.

For those of you who are peepers (as in leaf peepers) it’s time to get out on the road as this weekend may be the peak for colors in New York (Mid Hudson Valley) and lower New England. The drought along with two frosts and a freeze over upstate New York and inland New England had some color showing up two weeks ago. By the time you read this, northern New England will be past its peak while the Catskills and Berkshires will be at slightly past peak this weekend. Take a day — better yet, take two — so you can see one of the few things that we miss on the East End.

And speaking of drought, did you know that this is actually the 11th year of a long-term drought in the Northeast? If you’ve done any planting in the past year or if you plan on planting trees or shrubs this fall, it’s critical to water, then water some more. As long as these plants are growing, and they do grow even though they may drop their leaves, they need water.

If you ordered flower bulbs from a mail-order source, they may be a bit late. Suppliers are so swamped with orders that some wouldn’t take new orders until their existing orders were filled. There’s also a delay in garlic (seed garlic that is) that’s coming from California and Oregon. The fires out there have delayed some harvesting by about two weeks. Not to worry though, as long as you get your garlic planted by the third week in October.

If you had a mulching mower, you wouldn’t have to rake up as many leaves. If your landscaper used a mulching mower, he or she wouldn’t have to take the leaves to be recycled. They’d be recycled right into your lawn with the grass clippings, thus reducing the need for fertilizer by as much as half. And speaking of fertilizer, if you haven’t put it down, do it now. November 1 is the legal deadline, but you still want to do it now when the soil is warm, especially if you are using organics.

Doing a new trial on getting rid of Japanese stiltgrass. When it shows up in patches in my lawn I spray the area with the organic herbicide Burnout. It kills the stiltgrass so it can’t go to seed and while it burns off the tops of perennial grasses it doesn’t kill them and they quickly recover. Stay tuned on this one. Oh, and how does stiltgrass spread? Many times it gets moved around on, of all things, the soles of shoe.


Early Daffodils for Christmas

Daffodils for Flowering Indoors. Early Daffodils for Christmas.

Choice of variety is important if you want the earliest possible flowering of your indoor Narcissus. Some varieties flower much earlier than others - regardless of the way you treat them. Two favourites for growing and flowering at or near Christmas, are Narcissus Paper White and Narcissus 'TГ©te ГЎ TГ©te'. Both are naturally early flowering.

Narcissus Paper White, is one of the earliest flowering Daffodils, and is often to be found in garden centres during late autumn - with a promise for Christmas flowering. So it will, but only if planted in time. This particular variety will normally flower about eight weeks after planting in bowls or containers for indoor flowering. Follow the general directions for growing bulbs indoors here, and remember to make a note of when they were planted.

Grow cold - not freezing for around six or eight weeks and bring indoors after that period. So for forcing narcissus Paper white into bloom for Christmas, you will need to start the process in middle of October. Plant the several pots of the bulbs at weekly intervals to get a good succession of flower all over the Christmas period, and then into early spring.

Narcissus TГ©te ГЎ TГ©te, is difficult to flower for Christmas - though can often be bought ready forced at the garden centres during the run up to Christmas. If you buy the bulbs early enough, then store them in the bottom of the fridge for the first month. Basically cheat them into believing that winter has happened, and they will break their dormancy.

Most other daffodils are best forced for early Spring indoors. You should be able to get them into flower for late February early March quite easily by following our general hints on forcing bulbs indoors.

Some Good varieties of Narcissus for forcing for indoor flowering are.

  • Narcissus Mount Hood - white
  • Narcissus Golden Harvest or King Alfred - some good golden yellows.
  • Narcissus Thalia - is one of the earlier whites - and so dainty.
  • Narcissus Cheerfulness a white double is a firm favourite for this treatment. There is also a yellow version - Narcissus Yellow Cheerfulness. White is better!
  • Narcissus Actaea - Scented, white with smallest of red rimmed trumpets.

Do not be tempted to try the large double flashy daffs for this operation. They will invariably be top heavy and need cane support.


For those who can never get enough of tulips, daffodils, and spring bulbs, try potting them up to force into cheerful bloom this winter in the house. See our tips on how to force bulbs and a timetable for when to pot up different types of bulbs.

It is easy enough to do and you will be glad you did it when they start blossoming while there is still snow on the ground.

Temperature, moisture, sufficient cold period, and protection from rodents are the most important considerations. Some bulb varieties, like early single tulips, are easy to force. Many bulbs are now being marketed specifically for forcing and will say so on the label.

Buy the biggest, healthiest bulbs you can find and they will reward you with the best flowers.

Potting the Bulbs

Potting is the easiest part of this process and the messiest. I use shallow wide containers called bulb pans that are 5 inches deep and 8 inches across. Fill your pots half to three-quarters full of fast draining potting soil or a soilless mix. No fertilizer is necessary because your bulbs come packed with all the nutrition they need to produce this season’s flowers. Place them in the pot, pointy end up, as close together as you like. Don’t let them touch just in case one rots it won’t spoil the rest. A full pot gives a better display and you can mix varieties in the same container if you wish.

When planting tulips be sure the flat side of the bulb faces the pot rim because this is the side that will have the first leaf and it looks nicer draped over the edge of the pot instead of bunched up in the center. Cover the bulbs with soil to within an inch of the rim to allow room for watering. It is okay if large bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths have their noses sticking up out of the soil. Water the pots well and put them in a cold, dark, place to develop roots. Check the pots once a week and water when dry.

To get our flowering bulbs to bloom indoors we have to trick them into thinking winter has come and gone and it is safe to blossom.

Storing the Pots

The key to success is finding a place to store them that is accessible, cold enough, and protected from marauding rodents. Many books recommend digging a trench, putting the pots in there, and covering them with dirt or leaves. This will work in warmer climates. In the frozen north, however, you need to use a cold basement or unheated room that stays between 32 to 40 degrees. Most bulbs need 12 to 15 weeks of cold treatment before they are sufficiently rooted and ready to bloom. Check the bottom of the pots for roots. Even if they show some top growth but aren’t well-rooted, give them more time in storage.

Forcing the Bulbs

When they have rooted and their time is up, you can start bringing pots out of cold storage. To prevent “blasting” or shriveling of the flower buds, introduce them to the warmth of the house gradually by placing them in a cool bright spot away from any heat source for 2-3 weeks. Most bulbs will begin to bloom in 2-5 weeks.

Timetable for Popular Forced Bulbs

Here’s a timetable for some popular forced bulbs:

  • Crocus, iris reticulata, and snowdrops need 15 weeks of cold.
  • Daffodils 15 to 17 weeks.
  • Hyacinths, 11 to 14 weeks.
  • Muscari 13 to 15 weeks.
  • Scilla 12 to 15 weeks.
  • Tulips 14 to 20 weeks.

Did you know that you can also force branches of flowering trees and shrubs into bloom? See our article on forcing branches.


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