A Lesson in Forced Blub Flowering

January 17, 2011


Indoor blooms don’t just happen. As you can see in the photo, my Narcissus Paperwhites are flowerless. This was my first experience with indoor bulb forcing, which I shared with my readers in November. You can review my original posts by clicking on these three links:

Day 8 of forcing Narcissus Paperwhites Indoors

Indoor Bulb Forcing: Part I

Indoor Bulb Forcing: Part II

At first, my Paperwhites flourished. Two buds burst into tiny white flowers and bloomed for nearly three weeks. I was ecstatic. Everyday I watched for more blossoms with eager anticipation. Buds continued to form. As the foliage grew, my excitement heightened because I looked forward to a happy plant covered in florets. Then the flowers as well as the buds died. I was devastated and couldn’t understand what happened because the bulbs were healthy and firm. It was obvious I had failed them, and I wanted to know why.

Since I couldn’t find the answer online, I called a local nursery for some practical advice. The owner answered the phone and said, “I don’t know, but come in and buy ours. Our bulbs would never do that.”  

Frustrated, I sought help elsewhere. Here’s what had I learned:

“Narcissus bloom when it is cold out. They like it cold and wet. They usually yellow when the air is too dry, and soil too dry.” –Julie Morehouse, Horticultural Advisor/Garden Coach, Stockton, CA | 209-598-4707 

“You under-watered, once the bulbs flower the water evaporates quickly. They need more water to keep blooming.” –Bill Renfro, owner of Plants and Produce Retail Nursery, Lodi, CA | 209-727-0323

BINGO! I finally knew what I did wrong and how to avoid failure next time. My potted Narcissus sat in a warm, dry room. I was so concerned about over watering, the soil was barely moist, and with too many holiday festivities, I probably let it dehydrate more than once. Although my oversight wasn’t costly, I was disappointed with the results of my neglect.

If you are thinking of forcing indoor flowers, whatever variety bulb you choose, benefit from my mistakes—research environment, water needs and other growing requirements for successful indoor bulb flowering. Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre




  1. Excellent advice for forced blub flowering.

    How are your plants doing now? bernadine


    • The season is over so the bulbs are in the compost pile. I could have put stored them until planting time, but oftentimes bulbs don’t bloom as well the second time around. However, some gardeners are very successful with recycled bulbs.


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