Forcing Bulbs

Bulb Planting Revisited

Scilla siberica

What are we doing this week at Linden Hill?  Bulb planting is back!LeafSeparator

 There are many reasons to grow bulbs in pots instead of the ground, also known as forcing.

You can use this technique if you:

  • have some bulbs that you did not get a chance to plant in the ground
  • would like to have spring centerpieces ready for your home, or to give as gifts
  • would like to enjoy bulbs before they emerge in the gardens- spring in February!

We force bulbs at Linden Hill to have delightful, ready-made small planters filled with colorful early spring blooms. We also use this method to grow our galanthus due to the ease of having them emerge in containers. It avoids digging for them under snow cover or frozen ground, makes for easy transport and identification.

Fritillaria uva vulpis bulbs

Fritillaria uva vulpis

Scilla siberica Bulbs

Scilla sib

Basic requirements:  Spring flowering bulbs cannot be forced properly without a cold period. The recommended duration is for about 12 weeks. You will want the temperature to be consistent -above freezing, but not above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Choose a cool, dark place. Here at Linden Hill we keep the bulbs in the unheated basement of the farmhouse. You will want to check on your potted bulbs every few weeks, if any of the pots look dry, water them only a little bit. In late winter, when you see the first sign of the bulb sprouting, that is the cue to bring the pots out of the dark and into a sunny place in your home (about 60 degrees – don’t put them near a heater or they will bloom too quickly) They will begin blooming in a few weeks. For us, since we are doing this on the late side (the third week of December), our bulbs will be just a little ahead of the outdoor blooming bulbs,

Fill pot with soil

4 scilla in 4 inch potThe process: Decide whether you will plant the bulbs in plastic or terracotta pots (the pots must have drainage holes). Fill the container a little over halfway with potting soil, up to 3/4 full. Place your bulbs on the soil very close, being mindful that they do not touch each other or the sides of the pot. We created these four inch pots of Scilla siberica, which each contain 4 bulbs.


Water thoroughly scilla

Put screen on finished potsCover your bulbs with soil to top of the pot. Continue planting your pots and set them in a tray. Water extremely well, soaking the soil and cover with a screened tray or hardware cloth to keep critters away. Store the completed pots in your chosen cold location.

For bigger bulbs, such as daffodils, you will need to use bigger pots and follow the same instructions. As a guideline, we plant 8-10 daffodil bulbs in a 12 inch pot and this makes a great gift or spring patio pot.

8 Mt Hood Daffodils in 12 inch pot



Winter AconiteThe easiest bulbs for forcing are crocus, scilla siberica (siberian squill), galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop), muscari armeniacum (grape hyacinth) and winter aconite (eranthis hyemalis).

Make sure to double check the cultivation requirements of the bulbs you are planting. For instance, this year we are excited to be forcing Fritillaria uva vulpis (Fox’s Grape), a bulb that needs exceptionally good drainage.

We mix perlite or sand into the potting soil to ensure the growing success of this unique plant. Place  the fritillaria bulbs sideways in the pot to prevent water collecting in the hollow crowns and therefor possibly rotting the bulbs.

After you have enjoyed the blooms of your bulbs, you can simply plant them in your garden in spring, after the frost danger has past. The flowers will re-bloom again the following spring during the normal growing season.


galanthus in terracotta Planting snowdrops plastic pots

 Galanthus 2015

We sell and ship our snow drops ‘in the green’ during early spring. If you are already collector, or would like to start your collection, check out our offerings here.

Also join our Facebook Group – Galanthus Group of the Delaware Valley

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