Bulb forcing experiments

Forced paperwhites in a gold container
Forced paperwhites in a gold container from 2012

Yes, I know, it’s mid-fall, and here I am talking about forcing bulbs indoors. Well, now is the time. All bulbs except the Narcissus tazetta class and Hippeastrum (amaryllis) must be chilled for approximately twelve weeks, give or take, before you can force them on vase or in bowls–or any other container you’d like.

Forced amaryllis from a couple of seasons ago. You can tell because Bear is small.
Forced amaryllis from a couple of seasons ago. You can tell because Bear is small.

Last year, I placed mine on water in the fridge, but the garage refrigerator gets opened and closed by many people in this house all winter long. Plus, it got so cold out there the bulb water froze. Frozen water didn’t hurt the bulbs or the vases, but I panicked and brought them inside too soon. Some didn’t chill long enough. I’m still placing bulbs in the fridge this year, but I’ll chill them in their nice, dark bags first. Make sure you separate bulbs from any fruit in the fridge because ethylene gas, especially that from apples, interferes with growth. Tagging the bags is also a good idea.

I’ve forced bulbs for several seasons, but last year, I became much more intentional about the process. I blame Garden Winthindoors because Julie’s blog was a source of great inspiration temptation during long, cold winter months. I’m so glad to see she’s back for another round of forcing fun. Plus, I’m now enabling everyone I know. Bwahaha! That’s the extent of my Halloween posting. Boo!

Most bulbs, other than paperwhites and amaryllis, need a chilling period. Mine are hanging out in the garage fridge.
Most bulbs, other than paperwhites and amaryllis, need a chilling period. Mine hung  out in the garage fridge last year.

I went on a bulb forcing container spree last year, and I’m planting many of these with N. tazetta. These containers are a steal because many were made by McCoy pottery in Ohio, and haven’t been discovered yet by garden enthusiasts. Bulb forcing must have once been very popular.

Let’s bring it back into style.

I love McCoy’s soft colors from the 1930s through the 1960s. I bought a few on eBay last year, but I also found several at my favorite Guthrie antique stores. Milk glass is nice and very inexpensive. Let me lead you down the rabbit trail with a couple of posts from last year on bulb forcing bowls and vases. I’m especially fond of the pink one above. Don’t believe everything you read on eBay though. These aren’t that rare. Don’t pay a fortune for them. I found many locally for $5.00 to $9.00.

Because I don’t like stinky N. tazetta ‘Ziva,‘ which is the most common tazetta in stores, I ordered different ones online. Just search for tazetta, and you’ll find ‘Inball’ (or ‘Inbal’), ‘Wintersun,’ ‘Nir,’ ‘Geranium’ and ‘Erlicheer‘ tazetta types. I especially love ‘Erlicheer’ and ‘Nir.’ Do yourself a favor and grow the ones listed here instead of ‘Ziva.’ Also in the daffodil forcing experiments, I’ll grow miniature types, but they must be chilled first.

Cobalt blue forcing vases and milk glass bowls. You can also see the vintage green, probably McCoy, bowl with the crocus in back next to the agave.
Cobalt blue forcing vases and milk glass bowls. You can also see the vintage green, probably McCoy, bowl with the crocus in back next to the agave.

On to hyacinths. They seem to be very reliable for forcing. I’m growing ‘City of Haarlem’ named after a city in the Netherlands, ‘Delft Blue,’ ‘Gypsy Queen‘ and ‘Woodstock.’ In crocus, I got C. chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl, C. vernus ‘Jeanne d’Arc.’ and ‘Twilight.’ I will plant them inside or out depending upon my mood when they get here since I’m also doing lasagna plantings outdoors. Still waiting on my tulips for that.

Thank goodness I bought a few more vases this year. Vintage and newish ones can be found on eBay, and they aren’t cheap. I let myself have three this year, or was it five? Anyway, they are pricey because they often come from England or even Holland. Bill got a kick out of signing for one of my packages because it came directly from Holland. It’s pictured below.

Amethyst blown glass hyacinth vase.
Amethyst blown glass hyacinth vase from Holland.

That’s my fourth amethyst colored vase since I bought three in the last three years. I also bought two amber ones from Denmark. They are also shaped a bit differently because they are oval instead of round. Kind of a fun thing. I really started by collecting cobalt blue vases and small medicine bottles because I also collect flow blue China. The medicine bottles are for a miniature bottle tree. You can see my blue bottles and vases in the photo below. Some people want jewelry. I like housewares. To each his own.

Amber hyacinth glass from Denmark
Amber hyacinth glass from Denmark

Bulb vases are so pretty they look good just sitting in a window even if you never plant a thing in them. However, I will plant these because the scent of Hyacinth will be the icing on the cake.

Cobalt blue hyacinth and crocus vases are still my favorites.
Cobalt blue hyacinth and crocus vases are still my favorites.


  1. I love your patience in forcing bulbs….

  2. Frances says:

    Bulbs are so full of magic, what else can give us such great joy later for a little effort now, whether planting them in the ground, pots or beautiful glass jars? Your collection is wonderful, even empty!

  3. I love those cobalt blue hyacinth glasses! You are right, now is the time for getting those hyacinths in the fridge! They take a long time.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I love them too Kathy. I picked up a few online and some at various local places. I think they are the prettiest colors, but I also love the green, amber, amethyst, and green. Did you know there’s an aqua too. Lovely. Those hyacinths do take a very long time.~~Dee

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I would be content with your collection of bulb forcing vases. Looks like fun.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, you should collect them too. I know you want to. Wink, wink.

  5. Dam you, Dee. A new obsession — McCoy planters. You’re killing me. I only get $65 a month with Medicaid and my Mum is cutting me off. Already bought 6 crocus vases and 4 hyacinth ones this year. I’m giving Mum your email

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Haha, Patrick, this made me laugh throughout the day. You will NOT give your mum my email! She wouldn’t understand. Buy those planters for $5 apiece. I have all I need. You won’t be bidding against me. 😀

    2. Forgot to ask, seen some sources that say you only need to chill the bulbs in crisper not actually in vases. Thoughts?

      1. Dee Nash says:

        Yes, mine are in bags this year. I didn’t like chilling them in the fridge on vase. It caused problems. They are all tidy in their dark bags and away from fruit.

  6. karen says:

    My problem is getting the inground amaryllis to rebloom in florida. The problem isn’t chilling, because as you said they don’t need the cold weather…the problem is Florida wetness! sometimes we don’t get enough of a dry spell to allow the bulb to rebloom in March/April as they should here. I just lifted several that haven’t bloomed in 2 years and placed them in a box in the garage. My hope is this enforced ‘dry” time will encourage them to bloom when I replant them after the holidays!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Karen, I think you’re absolutely right. The problem lies with the wet ground. I bet after storage, your amaryllis bloom again. My fingers are crossed for you anyway.

  7. Holleygarden says:

    I love all the containers! I am going to have to start looking for some. I have never forced bulbs, but you make it sound fun, easy, and very enticing!

  8. Wish I had more space. Then I’d do this too.

  9. Gail says:

    Looks doable and the bulbs in their containers are lovely. I do like those old McCoy vases and containers; the colors are soft and work with many home color schemes. I can do this! Thank you. xogail

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