I can’t remember when I started forcing bulbs for winter blooms, I just know that I love the look of fresh flowering bulbs throughout my home. Bulbs are easy to find in garden centers, grocery stores, and specialty gift stores. A few years ago I discovered a great site* to order healthy large bulbs that bloom profusely during the Holidays.
My favorites to force are Amaryllis and Paperwhites. If you are a novice to forcing bulbs my suggestion would be to start with Paperwhites. I’ve used both the recommended methods for forcing; either in water surrounded by pebbles or planted in soil.
How to Grow Paperwhites in Pebbles and Water
Select a container with tall sides. Glass containers and vases are fun because you can watch the roots grow. Pour pebbles into the bottom of the container to a depth of 1-2 inches. (You can also use decorative glass stones.)
Add water to the container so it just barely reaches the tops of the pebbles.
Place the bulbs on top of the pebbles, pointy side-up.
Set the container in a bright sunny area and watch for growth.
Monitor water levels so the water is always just barely reaching the tops of the pebbles. You do not want the bulbs to sit in water. The water method is very quick and you can expect blooms in 2-3 weeks.
How to Plant Paperwhites in Soil
Select a shallow container if planting your own. Paperwhites only need 3-4 inches to grow, so a six-inch deep container is plenty!
Fill the container 1/3 of the way with a well-drained potting mix.
Plant the bulbs, pointy side up, shoulder to shoulder in the container.
Cover the bulbs with soil so that the tips just barely peek out of the soil.
Water until the soil is about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Set the container somewhere sunny and watch the bulbs grow! Keep the soil slightly moist as the plants’ bloom. I start my bulbs in soil 4-6 weeks before I want them to bloom.
Really pack your pots full if growing paperwhites in soil. That will create a full display of blooms and reduce the risk of plant stems flopping