DIY: Forcing Tulip Bulbs Indoors

If you are looking to cheer up you’re indoors during the winter, why not try forcing some tulip bulbs. Most people choose crocus, hyacinths, mini-daffodils, muscari, or paperwhites.  Forcing tulips indoors will take a little more work but can add a lot more color than some of these other bulbs. 

Here is what you will need to force your tulips bulbs:

  • Tulip Bulbs
  • Soilless potting mix
  • Clay or plastic pots
  • Water

Step 1 – Pick The Right Tulip Bulbs

Tulip bulbs are not usually sold as “ready to force”, so the bulbs will need to be prepared for forcing. It is best to select a shorter growing variety of tulips if you can. There is a variety called Tulipa humilis that grows around 10 inches that are easier to force. Apricot Beauty is another tulip that works well.

Step 2 – Chill Your Bulbs

Once you decided on your tulip, select, large firm bulbs and place them in a cool, dark place for 12 to 16 weeks.  The bulbs need cool temperatures to simulate winter. The ideal temperature to cool the bulbs is 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  You can try to chill your bulbs in your refrigerator crisper, in an unheated garage or basement, or outdoors if the temperatures where you live do not go above or below 50 degrees.  If you put your bulbs in your refrigerator crisper make sure to keep them away from fruits.  For instance, apples give off a gas called ethylene which can cause your bulbs not to flower.

Step 3 – Plant Your Bulbs

Once your bulbs have been chilled for the appropriate time, they are ready to be planted. Select a container with good drainage. Fill the container with your soilless potting mix to about 3 to 4 inches below the container rim. Put the bulbs on top of the potting mix. The tips of the tulip bulbs need to show through the top of the soil. Make sure none of the bulbs touch each other.  Put the container(s) in a basement or unheated garage or another cool dark place. Water them lightly about once a week. Once you see leaves, bring the planted container to a location where they get bright, indirect light. It will take approximately 2 – 3 weeks for the bulbs to flower.

Step 4 – Caring For Your Tulips

Caring for forced tulip bulbs is just like maintaining a houseplant. Water the plants when the potting mixture is dry. Keep your tulips out of direct light or any draft.

Other Tips

To keep the potting mix from coming out of the drainage hole, place some type of screen over the drainage hole when you start this project. This way the water will still drain but the potting mix will not leak out of the drainage hole.

After you have completed your DIY project, you can compost the tulips.

I am going to try this project, this year.  If you try it, let us know how you make out.

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