Plant Bulbs in Pots for Indoor Winter Bloom

I have purchased blooming pots of tulips in the winter. Is it possible to plant some bulbs in my own pots for winter bloom?

Yes, you can plant bulbs in pots or other containers for bloom this winter inside your home. Most bulbs need to be cooled for about 12 weeks after planting in order to bloom, but a few require no special treatment

Paper white narcissus bulbs are pre-cooled and ready to be planted without any special treatment. Paper whites bloom in clusters of tiny, fragrant, daffodil-like flowers in either white or yellow. They are often planted in bowls or relatively shallow containers with just enough gravel or pebbles to hold them upright. They can be planted in deeper pots also.  Just place the containers in a sunny area and keep them watered. They will bloom without any further treatment in about 4 to 6 weeks. I start mine in a sunny, west facing window in the basement where temperature is in the low 60’s. They develop a nice, compact shape. As soon as I see flower buds, I bring them upstairs into the main living area. If started in a warmer area, they grow taller and will need to be supported with a stake and string or tape.

Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are best for forcing with a cold treatment. The best tulips for forcing are the triumph strain which have medium height stems.  Read labels or ask for the varieties which are best for indoor flowering. Almost any daffodil can be forced into bloom. Varieties such as King Alfred, Golden Harvest, Las Vegas, and Ice Follies are some of the best. Dwarf multi-flowering daffodils can also be grown in pots. Hyacinths are the most fragrant of bulbs. Single bulbs can be forced in a special hyacinth glass which has a lower chamber for roots and water and an upper one for the bulb. Hyacinths can also be bloomed with several bulbs planted in a pot.

Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and grape hyacinths can all be planted in ordinary flower pots. The smaller bulbs can be grown in 4 inch pots, but the larger ones need a 6 inch or larger pot.

Fill pots with potting soil, leaving an inch or more at the top. Then place bulbs close together in the pots, but not quite touching.  They should be almost completely covered with just the tips showing at the soil surface. After potting and watering so that some water drains from the bottom of the pots, place bulbs in a cool, dark place for about 12 weeks or until sprouting has started. The ideal temperature is 40 to 50 degrees, which is the normal temperature of a refrigerator.  If you have an extra refrigerator for summer, now is the time to put it to use for forcing bulbs. Check pots regularly and water as needed.  Use different kinds of bulbs or make multiple plantings at 3 week intervals to spread out the blooming period.

You will notice roots at the drain holes and tops will begin to sprout when it is time to bring bulbs into light at room temperature. They will bloom in 2 to 4 weeks after bringing inside.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

Scroll to top