How to Grow Bulbs in Vases

Growing bulbs indoors in pots or vases are a popular gardening activity. With care and a little planning, you can enjoy the color and show off bright, beautiful flowers at any time of the year, even in the depths of winter.

While growing bulbs in a vase, sometimes called “forcing” the bulb, is not difficult, it requires some advanced preparation.


In this article, we will share the steps to grow bulbs in vases. Read on to learn more.

Select The Bulbs

While many different kinds of flower bulbs can be forced, the easiest to grow in pots or vases include spring bulbs, including daffodils or narcissus (Narcissus sp.), tulips (Tulipa sp.), crocuses (Crocus sp.), or hyacinth bulbs (Hyacinth sp.)

Other less common varieties used include grape hyacinths (Muscari sp.), snowdrops (Galanthus sp.), and dutch irises (Iris x hollandica). These provide lovely spring blooms for a period of time in your garden.

Whatever flower you select, be certain to purchase the type of bulb selected especially for forcing, whether that be a crocus bulb, tulip bulb, hyacinth bulb, amaryllis bulb, or daffodil bulb. Also, ensure you choose healthy quality bulbs for optimal growth and higher chances of success.

For the best selection of healthy quality bulbs, the best place to shop is online or through trusted bulb sellers. When choosing bulbs, you should always check if they are plump and firm. 

Also, inspect the bulb shape and size. Bigger bulbs generally bloom more than smaller bulbs. It’s also best to avoid bulbs with soft spots because they might have mold growing on them.

Moreover, you need to handle your flower bulbs carefully at all times. They are juvenile or infant plants, somewhat delicate, and as such, they ought not to be dropped or handled roughly.

Store The Bulbs

If you cannot put the bulbs in vases at once, you can store them in a cool place with a temperature between 35° and 55° degrees Fahrenheit. Bulbs can also be kept for about 6 to 8 weeks in a refrigerator vegetable or crisper drawer. 

Ideally, the pre-chilled bulbs should have a dormant chilling period of 12-15 weeks in any event, so a stay in the refrigerator may improve your results.

However, different types of bulbs require various chilling times, so ensure you learn about what chilling time your choice of bulb generally needs. The pre-chilled bulbs should perform well as long as they have had the minimum needed time. 

For chilling, the basic requirement is a cold space in a dark spot with temperatures below 50° degrees Fahrenheit and above 32° degrees Fahrenheit; generally, 40° to 45° degrees Fahrenheit is best.

Moreover, bulbs need some moisture during their chilling period, but excessive moisture can promote rot fungi. 

Bulbs require some moisture during their cold treatment, but too much moisture can promote the growth of rot fungi. If the potting mix in your pots is overly wet, allow it to dry a bit before beginning the cold treatment.

In addition, don’t store them with food. Some varieties of garden bulbs are poisonous. Also, many fruits and vegetables give off ethylene, which can affect the growth of your bulbs. You shouldn’t leave your bulbs in a place where pets or young children can get at them.

Choose A Container

You could use many different containers, and not just a regular vase, to grow your bulbs. 

The key point of selection of the ideal container is that the mouth of the bulb vase must be big enough to receive the bulbs and allow the stalks of the plant or plants to grow through it in a matter of weeks.

One popular option is to grow the bulb in glass containers or a tall vase so that you can see not only the stalk and flowers but the roots. This might make growing the bulbs an interesting learning exercise for children.

Get The Container Ready

Here you have two choices. You can grow the bulbs in gravel or hard material or soil, or you can grow the bulbs in a vase with water.

If you choose to grow the healthy bulbs in gravel, fill your container about half full with rocks, gravel, bits of broken garden pottery, or even marbles. 

Again, the key is ensuring that anything that goes into the vase can come out again after you have finished. You can also use soil or potting soil to plant your bulbs.

If you choose to grow the bulbs in water, fill the container about half full with fresh water. Not all bulbs can be grown this way. However, crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils sometimes are. You will need a vase specially designed for forcing bulbs. 

The vase of water needs a wider mouth, a narrow neck that is smaller than the bulb, and a large base to hold the fresh water. The bulb will rest on the neck of the glass vase and barely come into contact with the water.

The drawback of this method is that while you can still sometimes save bulbs grown in soil or gravel by replanting them in your garden, bulbs forced only in water will deplete their own stored nutrients and be completely spent. You will need to discard them after they have finished blooming.

“Plant” The Bulb

Put the bulb in the container. The pointed end of the bulb goes up. The wider end of the bulb must have firm contact with the gravel or rocky surface, and you should now add more material to cover about a quarter of the bulb.

Add water to the surface of your gravel. If you use soil, plant the bulb loosely in the soil, and do not pack it tight. If you use water, and a forcing vase, just add water up to the bottom of the bulb. 

It’s also important to prevent cool, soggy soil conditions, as it can favor infection and may cause the bulb to rot. 

Put The Container In A Cool, Dark Place

In a natural environment, your bulb would be growing underground and forming roots in the early spring before the stalk shows above the surface. To encourage root growth, you need to store your vase in a cool, dark place, like a basement or closet.

It’s also important to have air vents to help circulate the air because indoors don’t have access to the natural systems of evaporation. The air vents will allow the bulbs to better transpire and absorb nutrients.

This process of root growth will take up to several weeks. You need to check your bulb regularly to notice the progress of bulb growth, and you should be able to see roots forming. Occasionally, you may need to replenish the water.

You should see roots forming and growing in the gravel, soil, or water.

When The Bulb Sends Up A Stalk, Move The Container

Eventually, the bulb should send up a flower shoot or stem shoot. At this point, you should move the vase to a sunny spot where the plant can get light.

It should first go to a cooler location, with daytime temperatures between 60° and 65° degrees Fahrenheit, for several days or a week, and then move to a warmer location, with direct light and warmer temperatures, like a sunny windowsill.

Moreover, ensure that the bulbs of flowers have adequate bright sunlight and good drainage, and be careful not to expose them to any extreme temperature alteration. If you have several pots in a restricted space, move them regularly so that all receive equal exposure to direct sunlight. After blooming begins, move the plants back into indirect light to prolong their bloom life.

After Your Bulb Has Finished Blooming, Empty The Container

You should be able to enjoy showy fresh flowers for several days or weeks. When your bright bulbs have finished blooming, they are probably spent and will not regrow. Still, you can replant them in your garden or outdoor spaces if you wish.

Wide varieties of common bulbs, such as crocuses and daffodils, have a fair chance of regrowing next year. They will not bloom in the year following but might in the year after that. Other types must simply be discarded.

While growing bulbs in containers take planning and a little care and attention, that effort will allow you to have a beautiful flower garden any time of the year.

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