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Playing Mother Nature: Forcing Fall Bulbs

by Amanda

For gardeners in frost-free areas, or for those who simply can’t wait to see their Hyacinths bloom in the spring, forcing bulbs is an easy, fun gardening solution. Bulbs such as Tulips, Hyacinths, Crocus and Allium require a chilling period to grow and bloom. We have some helpful tips and tricks that we have learned from forcing bulbs in our test gardens at American Meadows and in our own homes.

Pre-chill the bulbs for a minimum of eight to ten weeks in a refrigerator at a temperature of around 40°F to 45°F (the temperature of most home refrigerators). If you use a refrigerator, be sure not to store any apples or other fruits alongside your bulbs. Ripening fruit naturally gives off ethylene gas which will kill the flower inside the bulbs.

tete-a-tete daffodils
Tete-a-Tete Daffodils
blue hyacinth
Blue Hyacinth

Don't worry if you bought the bulbs early in the season and need to store them for several months before planting. Keep them chilling — even up to 16 weeks if necessary, until it is time to plant. Optimally, the bulbs should be put in the ground in December or early January in warmer areas. When bulbs do not receive sufficient weeks of cold treatment, they bloom too close to the ground, on too-short stems.

This practice is necessary for those gardening in warmer, frost-free areas. Gardeners in colder areas can force bulbs for earlier blooms inside. We chill our Hyacinth bulbs as soon as we get them from our growers in September and enjoy beautiful, fragrant blooms in the winter months. Chilling bulbs and then potting them up for friends is also a colorful, thoughtful gift.

We love playing Mother Nature and forcing our fall bulbs to bloom – they are just too beautiful to resist! As always, Happy Gardening! 

decorative bowel with bulb sprouts
Sprouts from forced bulbs