Vase for forcing bulbs

What Is A Bulb Jar: Bulb Vase Info For Forcing Flowers

If you’re interested in forcing bulbs to bloom indoors, you’ve probably read about bulb forcing jars. Unfortunately, available information doesn’t always provide much detail about bulb glasses for flowers and how bulbs glass vases work. The idea of bulb forcing jars may seem complicated, but it’s much simpler than you may think. Read on for some helpful bulb vase info.

What is a Bulb Jar?

Basically, bulb glass vases are simply that – glass containers for forcing bulbs. The size and shape of bulb forcing jars depends primarily on the type of bulb you are attempting to force.

Hyacinth – Glass containers for forcing hyacinth bulbs can be simple, but they are often attractive containers that accentuate the beauty of the hyacinth blooms. Some hyacinth containers are collector’s items. Jars manufactured specifically for forcing hyacinth bulbs usually have a round, squatty bottom, a narrow midsection, and a rounded top that nestles the hyacinth bulb just above the water. Some jars are taller with a more slender shape.

Bulb forcing jars for hyacinth don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. For example, you can make a simple hyacinth jar with a standard canning jar. Just fill the jar with enough marbles or pebbles to hold the bulb above the water.

Paperwhites and crocus – Small bulbs, like paperwhites and crocus, are easy to grow without soil, and nearly any sturdy container will work, including bowls, vases or canning jars. Just the fill bottom of the container with at least 4 inches pebbles, then arrange the bulbs on the pebbles so the base of the bulbs is just above the water, close enough that the roots will contact the water.

Tulips and daffodils – Larger bulbs, such as tulip and daffodil bulbs, are usually forced in wider, deeper containers that can accommodate three or four bulbs or more. Even a glass bowl is fine as long as it holds at least 4 inches of marbles or pebbles. The pebbles support the bulbs and the base of the bulbs should be just above the water, near enough so the roots – but not the base of the bulbs – will contact the water.

I began forcing hyacinths in vases several years ago. I became enamored of the process, and it’s now a ritual to take out the vases, wash all of them in soapy water and get them ready for their hyacinth bulbs. They spend most of the year in a broom closet in our kitchen on shelves Bill built for me. This closet backs up to the dog run and stays cool all year, essential for forcing.

Clean hyacinth vases look like jewels on the kitchen countertop.

In July, I ordered the forcing and exhibition hyacinth collection from Van Engelen Wholesale Bulbs. This is the same collection I bought last year. When the bulbs arrived mid-August, I put them in the refrigerator in a paper sack to chill them. About four weeks ago, I took out four and planted them in a couple of forcing bowls, but I saved the rest for my hyacinth vases. Bulbs need approximately sixteen weeks of chilling in order to fully form their flowers. I’ve gotten impatient in the past as you can see from the photo below. Now, when I put them in the fridge I ask Siri to remind me when they should come out. Otherwise, I forget.

An indoor garden of blooming bulbs makes winter go by faster.

After Christmas and celebration of the new year, there is nothing like having an indoor garden to get you through the next three and half months of cloudy, dismal weather.

To be honest, I don’t even like traditional hyacinths grown outdoors. They are like stodgy regimental soldiers always at attention. It’s this very stodginess, however, that makes them excellent for forcing. In my part of the U.S., we can’t run down to the corner grocery and get a pre-chilled bulb so we must do it ourselves. Just remember, don’t place your bulbs in the same refrigerator where you’ll have fruit like apples. The ethylene gas given off by fresh fruit kills the tiny embryo inside the bulb.

We wouldn’t want that.

You can also put the hyacinths directly on vase when you chill them in the refrigerator as Kevin does at A Garden for the House. I’ve done it that way too, but sometimes we need the space in the refrigerator. Storing them in bags takes up less room.

The bigger bulb on the right will produce a better and larger flower. It even looks less dried out than the bulb on the left.

When buying bulbs of any sort, size does matter. A bigger bulb equals better flower production. With some bulbs, like amaryllis, it also means more flowers. I bought a few ‘Carnegie’ bulbs at a local nursery because I didn’t think I had any. I was there. The bulbs were there, and so I bought them. You can see from the photo, above, how much smaller they are. I know that the bigger bulb is ‘Pink Pearl,’ but variety doesn’t matter in this case. Bulbs come in different sizes. Bigger is always better. To get the biggest bulbs, you simply must order from a reputable source, and there are so many from which to choose.

Placing the bulb in the hyacinth vase

Getting the water right is a bit tricky because every hyacinth vase is different, and where the bulb sits in the vase is different too. So, I put the water up to where I think it should go. Then, I place the bulb on top and check the level. Also, if you touch the bulb with your bare hands, don’t touch bare skin afterward, or you will itch. Hyacinths have calcium oxalate which can cause contact dermatitis.

My face was very itchy yesterday.

If you look closely at this hyacinth vase, you can see the water line is in the top third of the blue strip just below the bulb’s basal plate.

The bulb basal plate–the bottom where the roots emerge–should be just above the water, almost touching, but not quite. You don’t want your bulb to rot, but you do want the roots to sense the water. After I adjust the water level, I then put the bulbs back into the closet until they have roots, and the top growth is about an inch to an inch and a half high.

The hyacinth tips will be yellow until they sit in sunlight for a few days, and roots will fill the vases.

This top growth will be yellow until they hyacinth soaks up a few days of sun. Isn’t nature amazing? I think forcing hyacinths would be a great project for kids if you first chill the bulbs for them. A great parent or grandparent project because kids can see the root growth and the emerging flower. It’s a science experiment in a glass vase. You don’t have to use forcing vases either. You can use any vase if you first make a platform for the bulb to sit upon.

I love collecting my antique vases and using them. I enjoy playing with them each year. I hope you enjoy them too. Happy Holidays!

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With the holidays just around the corner (they’re coming whether you’re ready or not, you know), it’s time. Time for the annual Paperwhite Bulb Forcing Frenzy!

Yes, Christmas will be here in a few short weeks. Eeek!
I love how Paperwhites give a nice pop of snowy white color to the holiday decor. We can’t be all ho ho ho and Shiny Brites dangling from the chandelier all the time.

Plus, Paperwhite Narcissus are so easy to grow!


Tips for forcing paperwhites (forcing just means growing inside the house)

  • They do not need to be chilled like other bulbs, so no need for that added step. If you do not know what I mean by “chilled”, just disregard it, because you don’t have to do it!
  • Pick out a container to place them in (see below).
  • Put a small layer of stones on the bottom of your container 1-2″ deep. I use either aquarium gravel or a bag of stones from the dollar store.
  • Place your bulbs on top of the rocks, root side down (pointy side up)
  • Put a few more stones around the bulbs for support. 1/2 to 3/4 of the bulb should be showing above the stones.
  • Add water until the water is just below the bottom of the bulbs. The bulbs don’t like to sit in the water themselves, much like your great-aunt Martha.
  • Put the container in a well lit area and keep it watered, just not too much. Please refer to Aunt Martha above.
  • In 4-6 weeks you should have a super spectacular white flower show just in time for the holidays.

Now that you have the HOW down, there’s the WHERE question to be answered.

Where To Grow Paperwhites

There are just so many great places to plant these guys!!!

Some of my favorite planters for paperwhites are:

  • Tall glass vases
  • Soup Tureens
  • Silverplated casserole dishes (you can find these at the thrift stores ALL THE TIME).
  • Mason jars
  • Crocks
  • Any shallow ceramic bowl

Tall or shallow? That is the question.

It really is a personal preference, a shallow planter bursting with paperwhites is a beautiful thing. But keep in mind any shallow dish may require staking eventually or they might topple over.

Taller vessels will use the sides to hold them together, but make sure your tall vessel is glass so the light can get through to the growing bulbs. You wouldn’t want to use a tall stoneware vase for example.

Last year I chose to plant them in some quilted jelly jars. They’re just the perfect size for one bulb and would make fantastic teacher or hostess gifts (picture some bakers twine wrapped around the top with instructions on how to take care of them tied to it).

I think the small glass jars are perfect to just place around the house.

  • They’re easily movable.
  • They can be grouped any which way you want without being super permanent.
  • AND they like to ride around in the back of toy trucks.

And whenever I can work my red toy truck into a vignette, it’s a good day!

Fast forward a few weeks – this is what they looked like when they bloomed closer to Christmas.

When to plant paperwhites for Christmas blooms

The best time to plant your paperwhites for Christmas blooms would be 4-6 weeks before you want them at their best.

  • If you want them blooming in early December for the start of Christmas party season, plant in mid to late October.
  • If you want them blooming closer to the actual Christmas day, then plant them anywhere from November 1st through November 15th. November 25th at the absolute latest.

I actually like to start different sets of them every two weeks from late October through late December, so I always have some fresh paperwhite blooms throughout the gloomy days of winter.

What to do with paperwhites after blooming

That’s simple. Throw them away!

Seriously though, they rarely bloom again indoors and if they do it’s after a couple years of intense babying. It takes a lot of the bulb’s energy to go through a “forcing” situation in the first place, so they just don’t have the stored energy reserves to do it again very soon.

This article from SFGate/HomeGuides goes into it in a little more depth, but as much as I hate to say it, it’s best to just throw them away and buy new bulbs next year.

Where To Buy Paperwhites

I’ve had numerous people ask where they can buy paperwhites online, so I located some sources for you. These are affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here.):

  • Paperwhite bulbs
  • 8 oz Ball quilted jam jars
  • Aquarium gravel
  • A paperwhite kit complete with 3 bulbs, gravel and ceramic bowl

If you prefer to pick them out in person, they are carried by most local nurseries along with the big box stores. I’ve even seen them in the grocery stores already planted and starting to bloom (but what’s the fun in that)!

Other posts you may enjoy:

How To Make Winter Porch Pots

Christmas Porch Decorations

A Vintage, Farmhouse, Retro Kind Of Holiday Home Tour

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    Hi! It’s Jilly. Have you started thinking about “neighbor gifts”? This year I wanted to do something different for our friends, but still work within our fabulous “we’re still in residency” budget.


    I bought 150 pounds of apples at the end of the season. Yes, I might be crazy. But, when you can get Honeycrisps for 50 cents a pound you stock up!! I asked the ladies from church if anyone had some mason jars they were willing to part with. One awesome woman said she was done with canning and gave me a TON of jars. I was able to can applesauce, apple butter, and cranberry apple butter (recipe coming soon!!).
    With all these extra mason jars spilling all over my living room I started thinking, “Hmm, maybe I can use some of these for neighbor gifts.” I know there are cookie mix and soup mix and pancake mix in a jar recipes, but it wasn’t quite “it”. What to do?

    Then it hit me…PAPERWHITES! I started searching for information online like crazy. Turns out paperwhites are a traditional flower to give out at Christmas because they have beautiful, white blooms and they are easy to force indoors. (Force–make bulbs bloom when it’s not Spring. You learn something new everyday!) And, mason jars are a great place to plant them!
    We ordered our bulbs online from Dutch Mill Bulbs. They came pretty fast! Then, we followed this article at Southern Living to plant the bulbs. There’s some good info here, too.
    We filled the wide-mouth quart sized mason jars with about 2 1/2″ of rocks. We used a mixture of river pebbles, pea gravel, and mini marble from the home improvement store. The kids liked layering the rocks in different ways.
    Next, we nestled a bulb in the rocks, with the “point” sticking up. Then we put a few more rocks around the bulb, leaving the top third of the bulb exposed.
    After that we added water up to the bottom of the bulb. Don’t fill it up all the way or you’ll drown your bulbs! These things are super lower maintenance. We planted them a week ago and most of them still don’t need to be watered since the first watering.
    It’s cool to see how much they’ve grown just in one week! Looking at them makes me giddy. One of my harebrained ideas is working! Ha ha!
    I can’t wait to give these out to our friends! They will have a beautiful plant to put on display in their homes, not just another plate of cookies that will be gone in no time. They say paperwhites bloom about 4-6 weeks after planting, so hopefully the white, star-shaped flowers will appear in time for Christmas! If not, New Years is good, too.
    Have you ever forced bulbs or planted paperwhites? What’s your favorite “neighbor” gift to receive at Christmastime?
    I’d love to have you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram!

    7 Steps for Growing Bulbs in Vases

    You can effectively grow bulbs in vases for some interesting decoration, gifts or for adding some spring colors to the holiday season.

    If you wish to grow some of your favorite bulbs in vases, it’s best to start in October.

    There are many different bulbs you can choose to grow in vases, such as daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinths, lily of the valley and many more. Bulbs grown in vases will flower in about 6 weeks.

    There are special vases available for this purpose, but you may also use any regular vase. The only important thing is that a bulb can fit inside.

    Growing Bulbs in Vases

    Here are 7 easy steps to make growing bulbs in vases easy and effective:

    1. Gently place bulbs in a paper bag with air holes. You may also use a mesh bag. Put them inside your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. This is best done at the end of August. The best temperature for bulbs is 35 to 48 F. They need to be in the refrigerator for at least 12-13 weeks so they will bloom after you put them in a vase.

    2. Prepare the vase. Fill the bottom half with marbles, pebbles or crushed rocks. Make sure they are small enough so you can easily take them out later.

    3. Carefully bury the bulbs about one-quarter of the way in the pebbles. Make sure that the basal area (or area where the roots sprout) is down in the pebbles. Ensure that the pointy end is upward. It’s important to make sure that the basal end comes in direct contact with the water.

    4. Pour water slowly, about up to the top of the pebbles. You should keep the water at this level for as long as you wish to grow the bulbs.

    5. Put the vase with the bulbs in a dark, cold room. It has to stay there for several weeks while the roots form. Check the progress regularly. You should be able to see the roots entwined in the pebbles.

    6. When the bulbs start sending up flower stems, move the vase to a sunnier place.

    7. When the bulbs bloom, gently take them out and either discard them or plant them in your garden. It’s important to keep in mind that bulbs are considered spent after being forced indoors. On the other hand, it’s possible to save several bulbs after blooming, like the amaryllis.

    Photo credit: SFB579 🙂 via photopin cc

    Forcing hyacinths on vases – the process
    During the summer months hyacinth bulbs are first stored warm, dry and well ventilated to make sure the complete hyacinth plant can develop within the bulb. For early forcing (December/first half of January), it is necessary to use so-called prepared hyacinths. These are bulbs that are lifted by the bulb-growers early in June in order to start the warmth-period early as well. Later harvested bulbs are only suitable for later forcing. Prepared bulbs can be planted (put on water) in September, depending on the variety and the treatment, later bulbs from October.

    After this warmth-period, the essential cold-period can start. After removing the old roots and loose skins, the bulbs can be placed on the vases at lower temperatures in such a way that the bulbs just touch the water. Many publications advise putting the bulbs somewhat above the water, but in my opinion it is better to put the bottom of the bulb just in the water. By doing so, infection by the fungus Penicillium on roots coming out of the bulb bottom can be prevented on healthy bulbs. Professional forcers of bulbs on water will always put the flower-bulbs just in the water. If a bulb is already infected, the bulb touching the water will cause the water to become foul sooner. Regular refreshing of the water is then necessary. Normal tap water can best be used. It will be free of diseases. No fertiliser is necessary. The bulb contains enough food to ensure a good plant.

    Normally the hyacinths on the vases are stored in a cool, dark room, although the low temperature is far more important than the darkness, as several experiments of cold storage in light circumstances have shown. Mostly a cold period of 10 to 12 week will do the job. The optimal temperature for this is 9ºC (48ºF). Higher or lower temperatures will less satisfy the cold demand of the bulbs and a longer cold-period will be necessary. However for home forcing temperatures from 5 to 12ºC (41 to 53ºF) are acceptable. Temperatures should not exceed 13ºC (55ºF) to avoid diseases, or be lower than 0ºC (32ºF) as the bulbs with the water will freeze and cause your vases to break. Longer cold-periods will cause taller plants, whereas shorter periods will result in shorter hyacinths.

    To realise the necessary low temperatures for the hyacinths, the vases with the bulbs must be kept in a cool, unheated place. Suitable places can be cellars, basements, attics, unheated rooms, sheds, refrigerators, in fact all places where the required circumstances are best met. If they are kept in places that are out of sight, put on your calendar dates to check the vases. You will not be the first to find hyacinths flowering somewhere in the attic or in the cellar in spring with very long, yellowish sprouts. I was one of them!

    Check the water level in the vase from time to time and add water if necessary Refreshing it one or two times during the whole forcing process is advisable. Should you notice cloudy, smelly water, always refresh it. Very probably the bulb was already infected with Penicillium or another fungal disease, before planting, causing the bulb to rot at the bottom. Refreshing the water a few times in such cases can help achieve a flowering plant, although it will stay mostly much shorter. Refreshing is best carried out by pouring out all the water from the vase in such a way that the roots of bulbs stay in the reservoir of the vase.

    After the necessary cold-period, usually about 10 weeks, the vases can be brought into a heated room. The sprouts will be mostly between 3.0 and 7.0 cm (1,5 and 3,0 in). The higher the temperature where the plants are forced, the shorter the plant will stay. Choose a light spot, e.g. the window sill. Suitable temperatures range from 18.0 to 23.0ºC (64º to 73ºF). Lower temperatures will produce taller plants. If you know you will force at low temperatures, give the hyacinths a shorter cold-period. Here, too, check the water level and top it up, refreshing cloudy water if necessary.

    The biggest problem met in forcing hyacinths on glass, is rotting of the bulb bottom usually causing also foul water. Mostly this has to do with a minor or major rotting of the bulb base at spots where the roots come out of the bulb bottom before they are planted on soil or water! Roots start to grow out in humid conditions. Therefore do not store the hyacinths in cool, humid conditions because the rooting bulbs will invite Penicillium rot. If the bulbs are ready for the cold-period, plant them on water as described. If not, store in dry, ventilated, warmer conditions. Penicillium is a very common fungus, manifesting itself for instance also on your cheese, bread and apple sauce.

    Another problem is the tipping over from the vase of a plant that is too big. First of all it is important to try to grow relatively short plants. Do not give a too long cold-period, do not bring the vases in with too-long sprouts and do not force too cold and too dark. When the forcing conditions are cool and/or dark, use a shorter cold-period. In Britain and Germany there are examples of vases that are designed in such a way that an iron support can be placed around or inside the special rim of the vase to hold the plant. It is also possible to use a thin iron stake, special iron support to put through the bulb, even into the reservoir to fix the plant on the vase. The size of the bulbs is mostly expressed in cm circumference: from 13 or 14 up to 19 cm. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant and the more flowers per inflorescence. Very big plants can tip over more easily.

    Now you all know that I’m a huge fan of popping anything and everything into a jar around here-gifts, recipes, even my office supplies are stored in jars! So you can imagine how excited I was when I was invited to participate in Ball Brand’s 25 Days of Making and Giving! I came up with this very easy, affordable, and outside-of-the-box Paperwhite Bulb in a Mason Jar gift and have been tickled with how it turned out!

    This is one of the easiest DIY gifts I’ve posted to date-simply fill a Ball® Wide Mouth Pint Jar with pebbles (any of their wide mouth jars works well for this) and nestle the bulb on top. If you’d like to let the bulbs start growing before gifting fill the jar with water just to the base of the bulb-you don’t want it to cover the bulb itself, just barely touch the bottom. Then place the bulb in a sunny location and watch it grow!

    I added some velvet ribbon and a mini ornament to jazz it up for gifting! I love this idea because it is such an easy gift to make and easy flower to grow-what neighbor or teacher wouldn’t welcome some beautiful paperwhite flowers this winter??

    My boys really enjoyed watching our paperwhites grow-seeing the roots work their way through the pebbles and watching the stalks shoot up then, of course, seeing those pretty blooms!

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