Hyacinth bulbs for forcing

How to Force Hyacinth Bulbs in a Vase for Beautiful Winter Blooms

When you’re tired of snow and ice and itching to get back out into your garden, forcing bulbs indoors can help cure your spring fever while it’s still winter. If you head to your local garden center, florist, or even grocery store in midwinter to early spring, they should have prechilled bulbs for sale. With a few bulb forcing vases, a splash of water, and a little patience, you can turn those bulbs into fresh blooms and fill your home with the sweet smells of spring. We’ll teach you how to force bulbs in a vase so you can enjoy some early hyacinths before spring officially arrives.

Image zoom Jason Donnelly

Tools and Materials:

  • Forcing vases
  • Prechilled hyacinth bulbs
  • Gloves
  • Water
  • Dehydrated water gel beads (optional)

Image zoom Kindra Clineff

Step 1: Chill the Bulbs (If Needed)

Before you get started forcing hyacinth bulbs, they need to be chilled. Usually, you can find pre-chilled bulbs to buy, but you can also chill regular hyacinth bulbs yourself. Place them in the crisper drawer of your fridge for at least 12 weeks, and keep them away from produce (it’s a good idea to keep your bulbs in a paper bag).

Test Garden Tip: Make sure you wear gloves when you’re working with hyacinth bulbs because they can cause a skin reaction and irritate your eyes.

Image zoom Kindra Clineff

Step 2: Add Water

If you buy pre-chilled bulbs, remove them from their pot and rinse off the soil (if they’ve been potted), and snip off up to half of the roots’ length. Fill the forcing vase to just below the cup where the bulb will rest. The bulb will reach for the water. You can also use water gel beads, which can make the vase look a little more attractive. Just set the bulb in the base, then fill in with water gel beads (1 teaspoon of dry beads soaked in 3 cups of water usually becomes about a quart of wet beads in about six hours). You might also need to add a little extra water to make sure it reaches the roots.

Image zoom Kindra Clineff

Step 3: Add Bulb

If you’re using just water, place the hyacinth bulb in the cup, root end down and growing end up (you might already see a tiny sprout) so the base is barely touching the water. Place the vase in a spot that gets bright, indirect light and watch it grow. Periodically change out the water and keep the level at the base of the bulb. Turn it every day to keep it growing upright. Once the flowers have withered, you can add the bulbs to your compost pile, or transplant them into your garden in the spring with bulb fertilizer. They won’t bloom again right away, but if you let them hibernate for a year, they might sprout again next spring.

Hyacinths aren’t your only option for forcing bulbs in water, either. You can also try forcing amaryllis (they’re especially popular around the holidays!), tulips, crocuses, irises, paperwhites, and daffodils. All of these will grow with just a vase full of water, but you could also grow them in a pot and soil if you prefer. Like hyacinths, all of these bulbs a great way to chase away winter blues and bring early blooms to your home.

  • By Tovah Martin

The Best Way To Force Blooms Indoors

You don’t have to wait for nature to hurry up in your garden outside in order to bring pretty blossoms into your home. Our tip? Force the blooms instead. This age-old gardening how-to tricks the flowers into thinking it’s time to bloom using water. By forcing your blooms, bulbs like tulips and hyacinth will begin to blossom ahead of schedule, and you’ll have gorgeous color for your windowsills. So how do we force blooms? The first thing you’ll need to do is search your local garden center for inexpensive forced bulbs. As we mentioned, bulbs like tulips, hyacinth, crocus, and daffodils are great options to force.

In Soil:
Use a mixture of potting soil, sand, and peat moss. Make sure the container has good drainage. Arrange bulbs close together with their tips sticking out of the soil. Make sure that the soil underneath is loose to encourage roots to grow quickly. Water the soil before placing the container to chill. Keep soil damp but not wet.

In Gravel:
Place a layer of gravel in a container, arrange the bulbs as you’d like, and then fill with water so the bottoms of the bulbs just graze the water’s surface.

In Water:
We like to force hyacinths in special bulbforcing vases. These can be found in florist shops or in antiques stores. Simply put the bulb in the top part of the glass, and add enough water so the bottom of the bulb is just touching it.
Tip: Wear gloves when handling hyacinth bulbs, which can cause skin irritation.

Let Them Chill
Most bulbs need several weeks of cold weather to prepare to bloom. Some, though, such as paperwhites and amaryllis, don’t need to chill at all. The amount of chill time for bulbs ranges from 8 to 16 weeks, so check the label when buying your bulbs to see the appropriate chill time for that selection, or buy the bulbs prechilled. For chilling, bulbs should be kept between 35 and 45 degrees. You can leave them in a dark, cool (but not below freezing) place like a garage, basement, or shed—or you can simulate winter’s chill by storing bulbs in the refrigerator.
Note: Don’t store them with fresh produce, because the ethylene gas from fruits and vegetables can keep bulbs from blooming.

Watch Them Grow
Regardless of what container you choose for chilling, the next step is to wait and let your bulbs root. Most bulbs should have blooms two to four weeks after chilling if you follow these steps: When shoots appear, take the container to a slightly warmer—but still cool—place (about 60 degrees), and give it indirect light until leaves are about 3 to 5 inches tall and flowerbuds appear. Then move the container to a warm, sunny spot (about 70 degrees). When the flowers open up, place them out of direct sunlight. This will encourage the blooms to last longer.

Forcing Bulbs to Bloom
You can also force branches to flower just before the season, but the closer to the actual bloom time, the easier the branches will be to force. Keep in mind that shrubs are actually easier to force than trees. When you go to cut the branches, be sure to cut the stem at an angle, and choose the right pruners for the job. A nice, clean cut makes a big difference. And, if you have the option, cut branches whose blooms have already begun to swell for the prettiest blossoms. Cut a slit at the end of each stem to increase the branch’s water intake. Immediately place the cut branches in water, and then cut them at an angle again once inside.

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Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors

Forcing hyacinth bulbs indoors is easy with just a little preparation! Read below to learn how to force spring bulbs indoors!

Thank you so much for stopping by! This post contains affiliate links, I receive a small amount of compensation if you choose to purchase from my links (for example – as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases). I only link to products that I know and love.

Forcing bulbs indoors is such a treat after a long winter! Bulbs like Paper Whites and Amaryllis typically come pre-chilled and don’t require chilling. However, you can force any type of flowering bulb indoors…it just takes a little preparation!

To force bulbs indoors, it’s best to think about nature. Spring bulbs are typically planted in the fall because they require a period of chilling & dormancy. This is true for many plants, including peonies. During this time, the flowers develop within the bulb, and come spring, they begin to emerge!

how to grow peonies

So, if you’re hoping to force hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, or ranunculus indoors you will need to chill them for 8-12 weeks. Essentially, you are replicating a winter nap for the bulbs. For exact chilling periods, reference the package that the bulbs come in.

During the chilling period, place the bulbs in a paper bag to prevent sunlight from hitting them. Store them in a cool place that stays 35-45 F. A refrigerator is a great option, but do not store next to fruit.

Thinking back to nature – spring comes gradually. So when you begin to wake your bulbs up after their chilling period (begin forcing them), do so over a period of time. Introduce them to warmer temperatures and sunlight slowly.

Although forcing spring bulbs indoors requires a little preparation, they are very easy to grow! To force the bulbs, nestle them into any type of vessel or container. To secure the bulbs fill the container with a few inches of potting soil or pebbles.

Water the bulbs well, but do not allow them to sit in water. The water line should just kiss the base of the bulb. If the bulb rests in water, it will rot or become stunted.

How to Force Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors:

These steps apply to all bulbs that require chilling such as: tulips, daffodils, and ranunculus.

  1. Chill The Bulbs

    To grow hyacinth bulbs indoors, you’ll need to either purchase pre-chilled bulbs or chill them yourself. You can find pre-chilled bulbs at many florist shops or online. If you cannot find pre-chilled bulbs, you can chill them yourself in a cold frame, cool garage, or refrigerator.

    Chill the bulbs for 8-12 weeks at 35-45 degrees F. Do not expose the bulbs to freezing temperatures. If storing in the refrigerator, place inside a paper bag and do not store next to fruit as they will emit a gas that can rot the bulbs.

  2. Plant the bulbs

    You can plant your hyacinth bulbs in almost any jar or vessel. Use potting soil, pebbles & water, or just water! You can use forcing jars or another type of vessel or pot.

    To plant the bulb, nestle it into potting soil or pebbles, then fill with water until the water line rests 1/4” below the bulb. Water periodically as needed to keep the water line just below the base of the bulb, and keep in a cool place with very little light until 2” shoots have emerged.

  3. Force the Hyacinth Flower

    Once shoots have emerged, you can begin transitioning the plant to more and more sunlight. Do this over a time span of about a week – essentially you are faking “spring” for the bulbs.

    Continue to water as needed, and rotate to promote straight stem growth. After about a week, you can move the plant into your room-temperature home. Place next to a sunny window and rotate every few days for best results.

    The hyacinth will bloom approximately 4 weeks after removing from cold storage, and will last for about 2 weeks.

  4. After flowering

    Unfortunately the stress of forcing hyacinth will not permit the bulb to bloom a second time, and the bulb should be composed after it is finished with its flowering show!

Forcing Hyacinth Flower Indoors

Botanical Name: Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids

You can find hyacinth flower in florist’s shops in the middle of winter. It’s more enjoyable, though, to force the bulbs yourself and watch them grow. And it’s so easy to do.

Bring on spring by forcing fragrant hyacinths indoors mid-winter.

Each bulb produces a thick flower stem, which carries dozens of small, waxy flowers. The hyacinth flower is highly fragrant and comes in stunning shades of blue, violet-blue, red, orange, pink, yellow or white. Surrounding the flower stems are narrow, upright leaves.

Forcing hyacinth in vase

Naturally spring-flowering, hyacinth flower bulbs are easy to force into bloom mid-winter. The process is called forcing because the bulbs are tricked into behaving as if they’ve gone through a cold winter, then brought into warmth and sunshine as if it’s spring.

Hyacinth bulbs need a cold treatment for 12 weeks to bloom. If you bought pre-chilled bulbs, you can skip this step.

You can begin the cold process anytime in fall. October is a good time to start for mid-winter blooms. If you have a lot of bulbs, you can plant just a few at a time, keeping the bulbs cold until you’re ready to force them. This way, you’ll have pots (or vases) in bloom throughout the winter and early spring.

Add a burst of spring to any room with fresh and fragrant hyacinths. Image by Jill Wellington

Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs – Step by Step

  1. Choose a shallow pot (at least 3 in/7 cm deep) with drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pot loosely with potting mix. Set bulbs side by side — close but not touching — pointed end up. Set bulbs so that their tips are even with pot rim. Do not press the bulbs into the mix. It should be loose so the roots can grow through it easily. Cover with additional potting mix, leaving the tips exposed.
  2. Water thoroughly and discard drainage.
  3. Move pot to a dark, cool, but not freezing, (40°F/4°C) location such as a basement, unheated garage or refrigerator. Avoid storing bulbs near ripening fruit or vegetables which give off ethylene gas that can damage the bulbs. Keep them in cold storage for about 12 weeks. Keep the medium barely moist.
  4. When shoots reach about 2 in (5 cm) tall, bring the pot out of cold storage and place it in a slightly warmer (50°F/10°C) location with low light intensity. Increase watering, keeping the soil evenly moist. Over the next few days, gradually move it toward a sunny window. Turn the pot every day for even growth. When in full bloom, keep hyacinth flower in a bright location out of direct sun to prolong the bloom.

Grow hyacinth flowers indoors near a window. Photo: Jenny Johansson

Want to grow hyacinth bulbs in vases instead?

Hourglass-shaped hyacinth vases will hold the bulb in place while it’s growing.

Keep the bottom of the vase filled with water, but don’t allow the bulb to sit in water because it will rot.

Remember, it still needs chilling as described above. Keep the bulbs in a paper sack during the cold treatment. When you see them sprouting, bring the bulbs out and place them in the vases.

Set vases in a bright, yet cool location.

Buying Hyacinth Bulbs

You’ll find hyacinth bulbs for sale in fall. Different varieties have different bloom times, so it’s a good idea to plant the same variety in each pot, rather than to mix them.

Hyacinth Flower Care Tips

Origin: Turkey

Height: 8-12 in (20-30 cm). Hyacinth flower heads can get heavy and may need staking.

Light: Keep bulbs in a dark location during cold treatment. Cover pot with a box, pot or black garbage bag if necessary. After shoots appear, gradually move to bright light as directed above.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy which can cause the bulbs to rot.

Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity) or higher.

Temperature: Cool 45-65°F/7-18°C . Make your flowers last longer by keeping them in a slightly cooler location. Blooms will last for 2-3 weeks if kept at a maximum of 65°F/18°C.

Soil: Good-quality, all-purpose potting mix. Hyacinths can also be grown in a bulb vase of water, as directed above.

Fertilizer: Not necessary

Propagation: Hyacinth bulbs that are forced into bloom indoors will not bloom a second time. They do produce offsets, which can be planted outdoors. If you want to keep them, allow the foliage to die back naturally, then cut it back. Store the offset bulbs in a cool, dry place. Plant the bulbs in your flower garden in the fall.

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