Potting Up Bulbs for Forcing

Clean Pot:

Use clean pots with or without drainage holes. If pot has drainage holes, use soil. If not, use pebbles, gravel, decorative stones, or marbles. The depth of the pot will depend on the bulbs being grown: allow for 2 inches (5 cm) below the bottom of the bulb and select a pot large enough to allow the top of the bulb to be even with the rim (when placed on the 2 inches (5 cm) of soil or pebbles).

Soil or Pebbles:

Plain potting soil is fine. Fertilizer is NOT necessary. Place 2 inches (5 cm) of soil or pebbles in the pot, then gently place (don't push) bulbs into position, pointed side up. (When working with flat sided bulbs such as tulips, plant the flat side of the bulb toward the sides of the container.) Use as many bulbs as will fit in the container: the bulbs should be close, but not touching.

Now add enough pebbles or soil around the bulbs to hold them in place: you need enough soil so only the tops of the bulbs are visible, with the soil line about half an inch (1 cm) below the pot rim. Firm the soil gently around the bulbs but be careful not to bruise them. If using soil, water thoroughly in order to settle the soil around the bulbs. Wait two days, then water again.


Watering the bulbs is the tricky part. You want to add just enough water so it reaches the base of the bulbs. You don't want the bulbs to sit in water as this will cause rot. Maintain this level of water throughout the growing period. You'll probably need to replenish the water every two or three days. Note that placing containers inside plastic bags will help to conserve moisture, so that you won't need to water as often. Don't fertilize: fertilizer is not needed as the bulb has all the stored food within itself that will be needed to flower.

Time for Rooting:

Different types of bulbs require differing periods of time to root well. For this reason it is not advisable to combine different types of bulbs in the same pot. If you haven't already done so, check the table of Bulbs recommended for Forcing to see how long each type of bulb needs to be chilled. Then, it would be very helpful to label each pot with the name of the variety, planting date, and the date you intend to bring it out of storage for forcing.

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Last modified: October 14, 2008