How to Force Flower Bulbs

There are several reasons to store bulbs so you can force flower bulbs.

You just dug up the summer bulbs and want to store them.

You’ve just discovered some flower bulbs on a top shelf and you’re wondering if they are OK to plant. Who knows? If they are soft, pitch them. If hard, plant them. (they might be dead but if you don’t plant them, you’ll never know.)

You want to force flower bulbs but you can’t do it right now. Read on

You just want to try keeping some bulbs around for a while. Read on.

Hints and Tips

You can store bulbs cool and dry for a few days before you plant them after you bring them home from the store. This is no big deal, just don’t let them get too hot.

If you want to pot them up to force the flower bulbs later in the winter, you can store them in the refrigerator for a few weeks but dry cold storage is not the same thing as a cold rooting period. In other words, you can’t keep bulbs in the refrigerator all winter and expect them to bloom next spring. Sorry to have to tell you that.

And no, you can’t store bulbs in the freezer

That will kill them. Yes, I know they freeze outside but that is after a long period of acclimatization in a natural setting. Being plopped into a freezer isn’t natural.

Storing Bulbs Before Forcing

If you have to store spring flowering bulbs for an extended time, the absolute best way such as tulips is in a mesh or paper bag (punch holes in the paper bag for ventilation) and put in a refrigerator. This will resemble suspended animation – no growing but no deteriorating either. Do not let hungry teenaged sons eat them. Do check them regularly for drying out or mold.

The best thing to do is plant your bulbs in the ground but if you forgot to do that, consider potting them up. Put in a pot and keep at 45ºF. You can do this in a cool basement or cold cellar or attached garage. You can store potted bulbs in refrigerator crispers but never in the same refrigerator as ripening fruit or vegetables (these give off ethylene gas which wrecks the bulbs).


If you have young children, do not store bulbs in the refrigerator. Some bulbs such as daffodils are extremely poisonous.

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