How to Force Hyacinth Bulbs in a Vase

Soothe your winter blues by bringing these sweet-smelling flowers into early bloom.

When you're tired of snow and ice and itching to get back out into your garden, forcing bulbs indoors can help cure your spring fever in winter. If you head to your local garden center, florist, or even grocery store in midwinter to early spring, they should have prechilled bulbs for sale. With a few bulb-forcing vases, some water, and a little patience, you can turn those bulbs into fresh blooms and fill your home with the sweet aromas that are a sign of spring. Here's how to force bulbs in a vase so you can enjoy hyacinths before spring officially arrives.

Forcing bulbs
Jason Donnelly

Tools and Materials:

  • Forcing vases
  • Prechilled hyacinth bulbs
  • Gloves
  • Water
Hand holding hyacinth bulb
Kindra Clineff

Step 1: Chill the bulbs (if needed)

Before you get started forcing hyacinth bulbs, they need to be chilled. Usually, you can buy pre-chilled bulbs, but you can also chill regular hyacinth bulbs (Walmart) yourself. Place them in the crisper drawer of your fridge for at least 12 weeks, and keep them away from produce (it's a good idea to keep your bulbs in a paper bag).

Test Garden Tip: Make sure you wear gloves when you're working with hyacinth bulbs because they can cause a skin reaction and irritate your eyes.

Filling vase with water
Kindra Clineff

Step 2: Add water

If you buy pre-chilled bulbs, remove them from their pot and rinse off the soil (if they've been potted), and snip off up to half of the roots' length. Fill the forcing vase ( Etsy) to just below the cup where the bulb will rest. The bulb will reach for the water.

Placing bulb in vase
Kindra Clineff

Step 3: Add bulb

Place the hyacinth bulb in the cup—root end down—and growing end up (you might already see a tiny green sprout) so the base is just touching the water. Place the vase in a spot that gets bright, indirect light and out of reach of pets (hyacinths are toxic to cats and dogs). Periodically change out the water and keep the level at the base of the bulb. Give the vase a quarter turn every day to keep the plant growing straight up. When the flower buds start to show color, move your hyacinth into a spot where it will get direct sun.

Once the flowers have withered, you can add the bulbs to your compost pile, or transplant them into your garden in the spring. They won't bloom again right away, but if you let them hibernate for a year, they might sprout again the next spring.

Buy It: Blue Hyacinth Bulb Forcing Kit (The Home Depot)

Hyacinths aren't your only option for forcing bulbs in water. You can also try amaryllis (they're especially popular around the holidays!), tulips, crocuses, irises, daffodils, and fragrant paperwhites. All of these will grow with just a vase full of water, but you can also grow them indoors potted in soil. Like hyacinths, all of these bulbs are a great way to bring early blooms to your home.

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