Force flower bulbs to grow indoors to battle the blues

With the onset of cold weather and shorter days, one way to bring happiness into your home or office is to force bulbs.

Flower bulbs in a container.
Photo credit: Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

According to research from Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Rutgers University, “Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness.” In her study, Haviland-Jones reported participants feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers. She also noted, “Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy; they bring about positive feelings in those who enter a room.” In other studies, it is noted that the workspace is also affected positively when flowers are present.

With the onset of cold weather and shorter days, one way to bring happiness into your home or office is to force bulbs. If you follow a few simple steps from Michigan State University Extension, you can have a touch of spring from November until when flowers begin to bloom outdoors in April.

The first step to success is to select flower bulbs that have been proven to be good forcers. Daffodils and hyacinths are the easiest to force, but there is a big payoff for the little extra effort to force tulips. Many smaller bulbs such as crocus, grape hyacinth and snowdrops can also be forced with great success.

The steps to forcing bulbs is quite simple. Hyacinths, daffodils and paperwhite narcissus can be forced in potting soil or water. To force bulbs in pots of planting media, follow these steps.


  • Large, good quality bulbs
  • A pot 4 - 8 inches in diameter
  • Well-drained potting media


  1. Add enough potting media to make sure the bulbs are placed at the correct level. Tulips and hyacinths should be planted so just the tip of the bulb is above the soil line. Daffodils should be planted so about half of the bulb is above the soil line. Smaller bulbs such as crocus, grape hyacinths and snowdrops should be potted one inch below the soil line.
  2. Plant 4-8 bulbs in the pot, depending on the size of both the pot and bulbs.
  3. Label each pot with the bulb variety and potting date.
  4. Add water until it drips from the drainage holes.
  5. Keep the bulbs between 35 - 48 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimal temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Some places where you may find these lower temperatures are a basement, outdoor trench, refrigerator or cold frame.
  6. Keep pots slightly moist.
  7. After 12-14 weeks, the bulbs can be brought in the house to begin forcing. It is a good idea to keep pots in a cooler area of the house for the first week or two (60 degrees Fahrenheit is preferable at this stage). Avoid placing near a heater or direct sunlight.
  8. After the flower buds are almost fully developed, the pots may be moved to where they will be displayed and enjoyed.
  9. The flower life can be extended by moving the pot of bulbs in a cool area at night.

With a little planning, you can enjoy the benefits of flowering indoor plants until spring arrives. Have fun, experiment and plant more bulbs! For more about spring flowering bulbs, read the Smart Gardening series from MSU Extension.

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