Hand Holding A Single Potted Tulip Bulb
tulip in a pot
(Image credit: Nikolay Zaiarnyi)

Forcing tulip bulbs is on the minds of many gardeners when the weather outside is cold and fierce. Growing tulips in pots is easy with a little planning. Keep reading to learn more about how to force tulip bulbs in the winter.

How to Force Tulip Bulbs

Forcing tulips starts with choosing tulips bulbs to force. Tulips are commonly not sold “ready to force” so you most likely will need to prepare them. In the early fall, when spring bulbs are being sold, purchase some tulip bulbs for forcing. Make sure that they are firm and do not have any blemishes. Keep in mind that larger tulip bulbs will result in larger tulip flowers. Once you have bought your tulip bulbs for forcing, place them in a cool, dark place for 12 to 16 weeks to be chilled. The average temperature should be between 35 to 45 F. (2-7 C.). Many people chill their bulbs in the vegetable drawer in their fridge, in an unheated but attached garage, or even in shallow trenches near the foundation of their homes. After chilling, you are ready to start growing tulips indoors. Choose a container with good drainage. Fill the container with soil to about 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm.) below the rim of the container. The next step in forcing tulip bulbs is to place them just on top of the soil, pointy end up. Fill the container with soil around the tulip bulbs to the top of the container. The very tips of the tulip bulbs should still show through the top of the soil. After this, for forcing tulips, place the pots in a cool, dark place. A basement or unheated garage is fine. Water lightly about once a week. Once leaves appear, bring the tulip bulbs out and place them in a location where they will get bright, but indirect light. Your forced tulips should flower in two to three weeks after being brought into the light.

Forced Tulips Indoor Care

After forcing tulips, they are cared for much like a houseplant. Water the tulips when the soil is dry to the touch. Make sure that your forced tulips remain out of direct light and drafts. With a little preparation, you can start growing tulips in pots indoors. By forcing tulips in your home, you add a little bit of spring to your winter home.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.