Holiday Garden Gifts: How To Force Bulbs, It’s Easy!


Forcing bulbs for the holidays, or for holiday gifts is a great idea to start now, when fall bulbs are available. You have a variety of healthy stock to choose from this time of year, and it really is an easy project! All is takes is some basic materials, fall bulbs, and a little room to store them until they bloom. Here is how to force bulbs for the holidays.

The most popular bulbs to force for the holidays are Paperwhite Narcissus and Amaryllis.  The Paperwhites are fragrant, delicate and smaller. Amaryllis is a large bulb and a larger plant, with large flowers in a  variety of colors. Red is an obvious holiday choice, but try white for a fresh option that can take you through the New Year.

How to Force Paperwhites

Paperwhites are easy to force in a tall glass container, with some decorative gravel. The tall container helps to support the plants as they grow. I like to add a little charcoal from the indoor plant section to keep the water smelling sweet.

Purchase firm, full, blemish free bulbs. When forcing in particular, quality counts.

Pour in two inches of pebbles that have been rinsed. Add a tablespoon or two of rinsed  charcoal then more pebbles. Place bulbs, root-side down and almost touching one another, on top. Add enough tepid water to reach just below the bottoms of the bulbs. Replenish when the level falls by a quarter inch.

Paperwhites will bloom in four to six weeks, so if you are planting as gifts, count backwards in the calendar from the proposed gift giving time.

How to Force Amaryllis

Force Amaryllis in a watertight, shallow container.  Fill the container until two thirds full, add charcoal bits as desired. Fill with slightly warm water until they just barely cover the pebbles. Lay one Amaryllis bulb on top of the pebbles, root side down. Try to purchase a bulb with fleshy, healthy looking roots. Add more pebbles until you reach the neck of the bulb, to give it support as it grows. Add water as needed so that the water level touches the bottom of the bulb. It’s ok to reach a finger down into the pebbles to check the level every couple of days.

If you have a container that fits the bulb snugly, you can force Amaryllis without any gravel at all.

Amaryllis bloom in six to eight weeks.

Neither Paperwhite nor Amaryllis will re-bloom after forcing, so it’s best to just discard the bulbs.

That’s it! Stock up at fall bulb sales and plant extra for gifts, for holiday decor, or plant some every two weeks to keep bulbs flowering right through to spring!
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