Growing bulbs indoors for winter color


By Sherie Caffey and

Robin Young

SUN Columnist

Bulbs are so beautiful and give such a pop of color in the spring. Did you buy bulbs this fall that you never got planted? Or maybe you just want to give a new indoor gardening project a try? If so, you can try forcing your bulbs to bloom indoors. It’s fun, will bring some winter color to your home and cure your winter gardening blues. If you don’t have bulbs left over from the fall, you can order some from an online retailer or see if a local gardening store has any left over.

Paperwhites are very easy to grow indoors. They don’t need to be refrigerated and take only about six weeks to bloom after planting. Place them in a bulb pan with a couple inches of soil, pointy end up. Then cover them to about half way with more soil and water them. You can also do this with no soil and just a pan of water. Place the pan in a cool, dark room until you see growth, and then move them to a room with light. PlantTalk script No. 1322 has more information on paperwhites.

Amaryllis are very popular around the holiday season and are easy to grow indoors, too. They like a small pot, so choose one that is about an inch taller than your bulb and a couple of inches wider. Plant the bulb so that about half of it is sticking out of the soil. Water it once and then not again until you see it starting to grow. Start watering and fertilizing regularly, and you should have blooms soon. Cut the flower stalk off once the blooms fade and keep watering the leaves if you want to have it again next year. See PlantTalk script No. 1303 for more information on re blooming your amaryllis.

For other bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths and crocus, you will need to give them a chilling period before they will bloom. Plant the same variety in one pot so they all have the same chilling times. Place a loose layer of soil in the bottom of a pot. For a 6-inch pot, you can usually fit about six tulips, three hyacinths or 15 crocus bulbs. The pointy side of the bulb should be facing up. Add more soil so that the bulbs are about halfway exposed. Water your bulbs and don’t let the soil become dry from here on out.

Now your pots will need to move into a dark, cold place for a while. Try an unheated garage, attic, basement or refrigerator. Don’t let them freeze or dry out. Tulips will need to chill for 14-20 weeks, hyacinths for 10-14 weeks and crocus for 14-15 weeks. Bring your pots in after they have chilled and they should bloom within a month. Start them off in a cooler (50-60 degrees Fahrenheit) room at first and then move them a warmer room after a week or so. Read more about forcing bulbs in PlantTalk script No. 1319.

Some bulbs are easy to bloom inside; some take a little more effort. Either way, it will be worth it when you have beautiful blooms in your home during the off-season.

Sherie Caffey is the CSU Extension-Pueblo County Horticulture agent.

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Jan. 18: Cottage Foods Certification, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Extension office. This certification allows certain foods to be produced in home kitchens and be sold directly to the consumer. For more information, please call the office at 264-5931. To register, go to or come into the office to pay. The cost is $40.

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