It will be a while before the Spring comes and the bulbs begin to bloom. However, in the bleak winter these bulbs can bring colour to the home. A fun experiment for kids is to force the bulbs indoors and give children a chance to observe the growth that occurs. It’s also a nice indoor activity to keep the children interested in natural science over the Winter when outside has harsh weather conditions. We didn’t buy bulbs specifically for this, however we did put some aside from the selection we put into the garden.
What you will need:
A clear, possibly glass, container
OPTIONAL – alcoholic spirit
How to force Spring bulbs
To begin you will need a clear container. The container needs to be at least as deep as the bulb is tall if not more. This is to allow for adequate root space. Then the children should fill the container with pebbles or beads. Any kind will do, they are simply there to help anchor the roots of the bulb. Remember if you are using beach pebbles to wash salt off of them first.
Now the bulb should be placed on the pebbles, root disc side down and pointed side up. Be careful your children don’t put the bulbs in upside down. It make be helpful to explain at this point that roots will come from one end a a stalk from the other. In addition the base of every bulb should be at roughly the same height.
The container should be filled with water and the water level should only reach the root discs or the lower part of the bulbs. A parent should help at this point because to keep from over filling the container. It is important that the bulbs not be submerged as this can cause the bulbs to rot.
If the bulbs were dug up by yourself then the bulbs should be kept in the fridge for roughly one month. This is to simulate winter and stimulate growth. If your bulbs are already growing then you can skip this step. If your bulbs are store bought then they will likely have been kept in cold storage already meaning this step might not be necessary.
Once growth has begun with roots and an emerging stalk the bulbs can be moved to a sunny window sill. During this time the water will need constant topping up to keep the roots from drying out. When the bulb has reached a stage of producing flower buds it is best to move the bulbs out of direct sunlight.
After the bulb has finished flowering you can try planting the bulb in the garden, however the bulb will be so exhausted it will likely die or at least take several years before flowering again. We throw ours away.
Tips for forcing bulbs
If you are growing your bulbs for a special occasion and you wish to slow them down, you can try a method called “ginning” which stunts the growth of the bulb. Mix one part alcoholic spirit, such as gin, with ten parts water and use that to replace the water in the bulbs container.
Not all bulbs require a winter cold period. Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus are tropical plants so they don’t need to be kept in the fridge.
Some bulbs you might want to try include: Tulip, Crocus, Hyacinth, Muscari, Daffodil, Narcissus paperwhite, Snowdrop and Blue-squill.
We hope you enjoy this activity and if you do try forcing bulbs of your own please let us know how you got on by contacting us on social media.