Most fall-planted bulbs (such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth) require a “chilling period” in order for them to bloom and grow correctly. In climates where the winter temperatures remain cold enough for an adequate period of time (zones 2 through 7), this “chilling period” is provided naturally when bulbs are planted outdoors. However, if planting outdoors is not an option or you are located in a zone 8, 9, or 10, this chilling needs to be provided some other way. When this is done, it is referred to as “forcing” the flower bulbs. Basically, you are forcing the bulbs to grow and bloom through artificial means.
Even if you live in a climate that allows you to grow bulbs outside, doesn’t mean you can’t try to force them inside! You’ll get a little dose of spring for the inside! Hyacinth are the best bulbs to force because of their bright cheery colors to wash away the winter blues, wonderful fragrance and the different options for forcing them in vases or pots.
- Purchase hyacinth bulbs in Fall from an online retailer or small garden center, such as Holland Bulb Farms. Any color of hyacinth will work for forcing, it is based on your preference of colors.
- Select a container to grow the hyacinths in, you can either use a small 4-8” diameter pot with drain holes, or a special vase made for forcing bulbs such as hyacinths.
- If you are growing the hyacinths in pots, you will want to use a soil that drains well, but also retains some moisture. Keeping the soil is loose is critical to good root growth. Plant the hyacinths in the containers so that about 1/3 of the top of the bulb can be seen in the pot.
- Find a place you can keep the pots or vases of hyacinths that is between 45 and 35 degrees for 10-12 weeks.
- Water the bulbs well after planting, prior to placing in cold storage. While the bulbs are in storage you may keep the soil moist by lightly misting with a spray bottle.
- After the needed 10-12 weeks of cold storage, move the pots to a cool location that is between 60 and 65 degrees to gradually expose them to the warmer temperatures. You will most likely need to provide some water if the soil appears especially dry.
- Gradually move the pots to a sunny location where you can enjoy them, you can take them out in stages to lengthen the time of blooms, over several weeks.
- Once they are done blooming, it is best to discard the bulbs as they most likely will not have any energy remaining to allow for blooms in the future.