Indoor Bulb Forcing: Part I

November 8, 2010

This is my first bulb-forcing kit. For five dollars, I thought it was worth buying. The idea of bulb forcing is to brighten the indoors of an otherwise dull winter season with bright blooms and fragrant scents.

The term “forcing” means to cause a plant to sprout, grow, and flower out of its natural environment and season. I didn’t have to buy a kit to do this but it sure seemed handy to have everything ready. However, as I looked through the contents (four Narcissus Paperwhite bulbs, one coir disk, and one pot), I noticed three problems:  No saucer, no drainage holes in the pot and the bulbs have sprouted.

All plants, even bulbs, need good drainage. The instructions don’t mention this which could saturate the bulbs and kill them. When buying bulbs, they should be firm and without sprouts. Curious about the results of sprouted and non-sprouted bulbs, I purchased four single Narcissus Paperwhite bulbs. Then, I decided to use one of my clay pots with drainage holes, and planted the non-sprouted bulbs in the center.

The kit instructions said to place the coir disk in the pot and add 3.5 cups of warm water. Once the water is completely absorbed by the coir disk, loosen the soil. Then press the bulbs nose up into the soil until just the tops stick out. Walter well and keep moist but not wet. Keep in a well-lit area out of direct sunlight. It should bloom in six weeks.

Keep your fingers crossed, and I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Note:  Some bulb-forcing kits come with decorative pots (no drainage holes, though), for about ten dollars.

Tomorrow, look for Indoor Bulb Forcing:  Part II, for instructions on how to do this from scratch.



  1. Well, I am no expert! however, I did indeed buy a paperwhite thinking I would have lovely bulbs for Christmas! surprise, surprise. I followed the instructions on the box and watched them grow in anticipation of a flowering plant. My first surprise was the size of the plant. The pot seemed to be too small for the length of the plant.
    Sure enough one day I got a tiny cluster of beautiful white flowers. My excitement grew in the knowledge I would have a wonderful plant for Christmas. That was about a month or so ago. Nothing since and today I thought maybe I should just throw it out, or am I missing something. I did indeed search the whole stem and nothing in sight. Green stems don’t excite me too much and my tiny cluster has died already so should I dispose of it?


    • Madeleine,
      It’s so disappointing when we anticipate blooms that never materialize or mature. I doubt you’ve missed anything. Overwatering can cause clusters to drop off, leaves to droop and yellow, but since you didn’t mention finding the cluster at the bottom of the container or nearby, it could be an insect. It’s difficult to say for sure what the problem is. You can plant the bulbs in the ground outdoors in the spring after the last frost date to transplant back into a pot for indoor blooming next year. Just Google, How to make Paperwhites bloom again.


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