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Choosing indoor bulbs for Christmas

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indoor potted tulips
Tis the season for spring flowers
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Grow indoor bulbs for Christmas

Gardeners, you donít have to wait until spring to enjoy your favorite flowers. Growing indoor bulbs for Christmas fills your home with refreshing aromas and breathtaking colors. Best of all, tending them offers a calming respite from the ever-busy holiday season.

Growing bulbs indoors entails ďforcingĒ them to bloom. This means simply adjusting an indoor space to mirror the conditions they naturally thrive in. With a little planning, you can have vibrant blooms in time for Christmas morning, New Years Eve, Valentineís Day - any time.

The most important thing you can do to ensure success is choose an easy bulb variety to force, especially if this is your first attempt. This includes the shorter tulips that tend to do better in pots anyway. Larger bulbs do better than small ones and they should feel firm to the touch, not soft.

If you love the towering blossoms, there are a few tall-growing varieties known to do well inside. Apricot Beauty thrives in the right conditions, but youíll need to plant it in a large pot and stake it. Triumph tulips produce large blooms in an array of colors. They grow to about 12 to 16 inches tall and are among the easiest to force.





When choosing indoor bulbs for Christmas, remember there are two kinds: ones that require chilling and those that donít. The ones that donít are native to places with warmer climates. The advantage of using them is that they donít need to be cooled in order to compel the bulbs to bloom. Paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis are two popular warm-weather bulbs.


Varieties that are native to cold weather climates Ė tulips, hyacinths, crocus and daffodils - rely on winter to trigger blooming, so you need to simulate colder temperatures for 12 to 16 weeks. Your other option is to purchase pre-chilled bulbs. 

When do tulips bloom? When the embryonic flower inside the bulb begins to develop. For this to happen you must plant and store them correctly.

Planting bulbs indoors


Use clay pots with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Use deep pots for tall varieties and shallow ones for short-growing bulbs. Spread a moist potting mix in the bottom of each pot about 2 inches thick so thereís room for the roots to grow.

Plant multiple ones in each pot about Ĺ inch apart. They look most dramatic when the same varieties are planted together because they bloom at the same time. Position them with the root down and the nose hitting slightly below the potís rim. 

Cover with soil, leaving only the top tip showing and water per the instructions. Make things easy for yourself by labeling the variety and planting date on each pot.

For cold weather varieties, place potted bulbs in a cool, dark space  where the temperature is around 32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. A basement, shed or unheated garage is perfect. If temperatures in your area stay below 25 degrees F you can place the pots outside and cover them in a layer of straw for protection. After about 12 to 16 weeks the bulbs should be fully formed and ready for spring-like warmth.

Forcing blooms

Varieties that donít have to be chilled will usually bloom after about 4 weeks. For the first two weeks, set them in indirect light where the temperature is around 50 degrees. Gradually move them to warmer areas with fuller sunlight.

After the 12 to 16 weeks, place the chilled pots in a slightly warmer corner with indirect light. As with warm weather varieties, gradually move them to warmer conditions to mimic the slowly rising temperatures of spring, this is sometimes referred to as the wakening period. Itíll be another 3 to 4 weeks before you see the first flowers.

Once your flowers bloom, move them to a slightly cooler place with indirect light to extend their life. Your indoor bulbs for Christmas should brighten the home for a festive week or two.

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