Two flower bulbs in glass containers.

How to Force Flower Bulbs for Winter

The winter garden may be asleep, but you can bring spring color and scent indoors by growing bulbs as house plants. Most effective are those that have been “preforced,” which simply means they have been chilled and fooled into thinking that winter has already passed, and can be grown to bloom for Christmas and New Year.

When to start: Early autumn.

At their best: Winter to early spring.

Time to complete: 1 hour.

You will need: Preforced bulbs – at least three per bowl, containers (with drainage holes); use deep pots for narcissi, free-draining soil, bulb fiber, moss for decoration.


With colorful flowers and a delicious scent, hyacinths are ideal for growing indoors. Plant them in early autumn and they will flower in the coldest depths of winter.

Plant in bowls

Put a shallow layer of soil in a bowl. Place the hyacinths on top, not touching each other, with pointed ends up. Add more soil, leaving the top third of the bulbs uncovered. Water well.

Store in dark

Put the bowl in a cool, dark place for eight weeks. Check regularly and keep the soil slightly moist. Pale yellow leaves will eventually appear, and you should also be able to see the flower buds poking through in the middle.


Bring the plants out into the light to flower. Place them in a cool, light spot, but not in bright sun. Water them enough to keep the soil just moist, and turn the bowl daily.


Treated miniature daffodils, such as ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and ‘Soleil d’Or’, are easy to force, but need lots of light.

Plant and stake

Plant bulbs in a pot, with the pointed tips just below the soil. Water to settle the soil. Place the pot in a sunny spot to encourage strong growth. Then wait for shoots to appear. Keep the soil moist, and support taller stems with stakes.

Tips: Growing in water

Forced bulbs can be grown in water alone. Special hyacinth vases hold the bulbs just above the surface, or you can use pebbles in a vase of water to create the same effect. Change the water regularly, and keep it topped up, so that it always sits just below the base of the bulb.