One of our favorite cures for the winter blues is forcing these sweet-smelling flowers into early bloom. It's so easy to do, and you probably already have what you need around the house for this project.

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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 while it's still 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, a splash of water, and a little patience, you can turn those bulbs into fresh blooms and fill your home with the sweet smells of spring. We'll teach you how to force bulbs in a vase so you can enjoy some early hyacinths before spring officially arrives.

Forcing bulbs
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Tools and Materials:

  • Forcing vases
  • Prechilled hyacinth bulbs
  • Gloves
  • Water
  • Dehydrated water gel beads (optional)
Hand holding hyacinth bulb
Credit: Kindra Clineff

Step 1: Chill the Bulbs (If Needed)

Before you get started forcing hyacinth bulbs, they need to be chilled. Usually, you can find pre-chilled bulbs to buy, but you can also chill regular hyacinth bulbs 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
Credit: 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 to just below the cup where the bulb will rest. The bulb will reach for the water. You can also use water gel beads, which can make the vase look a little more attractive. Just set the bulb in the base, then fill in with water gel beads (1 teaspoon of dry beads soaked in 3 cups of water usually becomes about a quart of wet beads in about six hours). You might also need to add a little extra water to make sure it reaches the roots.

Placing bulb in vase
Credit: Kindra Clineff

Step 3: Add Bulb

If you're using just water, place the hyacinth bulb in the cup, root end down and growing end up (you might already see a tiny sprout) so the base is barely touching the water. Place the vase in a spot that gets bright, indirect light and watch it grow. Periodically change out the water and keep the level at the base of the bulb. Turn it every day to keep it growing upright. Once the flowers have withered, you can add the bulbs to your compost pile, or transplant them into your garden in the spring with bulb fertilizer. They won't bloom again right away, but if you let them hibernate for a year, they might sprout again next spring.

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


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