best bulbs to grow indoors

Growing bulbs indoors

Quick facts

Grow a bulb garden for winter indoor beauty

In the fall, garden centers and catalogs are full of hardy bulbs to plant in our gardens in October, spend the winter underground, and then bloom in spring.

If you are a fan of tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths, you can pot up some of these favorite spring bulbs and create your own bulb garden for winter indoor flowering.

Choosing bulbs

  • When choosing bulbs for your bulb garden, consider that different bulbs will bloom at different times. Garden centers or catalogs will tell you the varieties that are best suited for forcing.
  • Bigger is better. Choose good quality, good-sized bulbs
  • Bulbs should be firm and clear of any mold or mildew.
  • Some bulbs have a paper-like covering. This is normal and you should leave it on the bulb when planted.


  • Use a clean clay, resin or plastic pot at least 6 inches deep with one or more drainage holes in the bottom and a saucer to catch water.
  • Wash used pots or saucers with hot, soapy water and rinse well.
  • Fill the clean pot about 1/3 with new potting soil.
  • Stand bulbs in the soil with the hairy root end in the soil and the tips or noses pointing upward. Do not press the bulbs into the soil.
  • Plant bulbs close together in the pot. Handle them carefully to avoid damaging them.
    • About six tulip bulbs, three hyacinths, six daffodils or 15 crocus will fit into a 6-inch pot.
    • Place the flat side of the tulip bulb next to the rim of the pot. The largest leaf will always emerge and grow on that side, producing a more desirable looking pot.
  • Carefully add a quality potting soil around the bulbs, making sure they continue to stand upright.
    • Tap the pot gently on the table to settle the soil.
    • Leave 1/4 inch of space at the top of the pot so you can water it without spilling over the pot.
  • Water the bulbs immediately upon planting and when the soil surface feels dry. Do not allow the soil to become dry, as the bulbs will also dry up.
  • There is no need to fertilize the bulbs. Bulbs contain enough stored food to flower one time.
  • Keep your bulb garden in a sunny, cool window under 65 degrees F just like a sunny spring day.

Bulbs have two ends: a rough, hairy end that will produce roots, and a pointed end that will produce the flower stalk.

Set the bulb in the soil with the roots down.

Fill the pot with soil and add bulbs at the right depth depending on the bulb type. Tulips should be planted 4 inches deep. Hyacinth should be planted about 5-6 inches.

Cold treatment, or vernalization

Once planted, it is time to give the bulbs a cold temperature treatment of 35° to 48℉ for a minimum of 12 to 13 weeks. This cold treatment is similar to the bulbs being planted in your garden in the fall and going through our Minnesota winter.

  • You can use an unheated attic or cellar, a cold frame or even your refrigerator to simulate winter.
  • In the refrigerator, cover the pots with plastic bags that have had a few breathing holes punched in them.
  • With cold frames in Minnesota, use a deep mulch. Cover the pots with 10 inches of soil and then with 10 inches of mulch (hay, sawdust or leaves).
  • Do not allow the bulbs to freeze as they will die and ultimately rot.

Forcing bulbs to bloom in pots after cold treatment

  • When you remove your bulb garden from cold treatment, the change in temperature will force or signal the bulbs to produce flower stalks just as they do when our spring days start to warm up after a cold winter.
  • Mark your calendar to remind yourself when to remove the first pots from storage for forcing to begin. Remember: they need 12-13 weeks of cold treatment.
    • If planted October 1, bring the first pots into the home right after Christmas.
    • For a continuous supply of flowers, you can plant several post at different intervals and bring in a few pots every couple of weeks.
  • Once brought out of cold treatment and placed in a cool, sunny window (50° to 60℉ is ideal) the bulbs should flower in three to four weeks. Closer to spring, they flower more rapidly from higher temperatures.
  • After the shoots and leaves begin to expand, move your bulb garden to a warmer spot out of direct sunlight.
  • Once the bulbs are blooming, move the pots to a cool location each night to prolong the bloom time. Small pots of crocus can be placed in your refrigerator overnight.
  • Hyacinth flowers may stay inside their bulbs and fail to grow a long stem. Place the plants in the dark for a few days or place a paper cone over the plants to draw the flower out of the bulbs.

After blooming

Flowering takes a considerable amount of the bulb’s stored energy. Therefore, bulbs that have been forced to bloom are unlikely to bloom well again. Compost the forced bulbs after blooming.

How to grow spring bulb plants indoors through the winter months.

Bulbs To Grow As Indoor Houseplants

A lot of indoor flowering plants are grown from bulbs, stems or tubers. Learn more about what bulbs to grow as houseplants and tips for growing bulbs indoors in this article.

What Bulbs Can Be Grown as Houseplants?

Bulbs are associated mostly with spring. Favorites are spring-flowering like:

  • Hyacinth
  • Crocus
  • Daffodil (and other forms of narcissi)
  • Tulip

They always remind us that winter is coming to an end.

It’s usually best to take your hardy bulbs that have been grown inside your house to the garden outdoors once they flower. Once they flower, they can’t be relied upon to have good performance inside. The more tender bulbs like amaryllis, begonia tubers and cyclamen corms can be kept in the house for flowering the following season. As long as you take care of them, they should do well year after year indoors.

Choosing Bulbs to Grow as Indoor Houseplants

When it comes to bulbs, a large part of the pleasure is lost if you don’t actually grow them yourself. You can go into your local garden center at the last minute to see what they have in stock. You can buy bulbs on impulse without even knowing what you plan to do with them; they store well. Buying bulbs from the catalogs out there and having plans on what to do with them before you even receive them is a fun thing.

If you purchase from the catalogs, they usually arrive in perfect growing condition. If you plan on purchasing from your local retailer, make sure to go early in the season (late summer for the majority of spring bulbs). This will allow you the best selection and freshest bulbs.

When choosing your bulbs, pick out bulbs or corms that are firm and of good size for the type of plant they are. Make sure there’s no sign of mold or damage. Always check that bulbs for early indoor flowering have been especially prepared for “forcing.”

Tips for Growing Bulbs Indoors

When you purchase the bulbs, be sure to purchase your compost, charcoal, pots and anything else you need for planting the bulbs at the same time. You should plant your bulbs right away to prevent deterioration. This gets them off to an early, healthy start.

Bulb fiber is cheaper than compost. It’s made up of peat or coir fiber and mixed with crushed oyster shells and charcoal. It’s an adequate growing medium if you intend to replant your bulbs after first flowering out in the garden, but it contains no nutrients. You should use soil-based potting compost containing a balanced mix of nutrients for those bulbs you plan to grow and keep indoors.

Give extra attention to the pots you choose because that can make or break your indoor gardening efforts. Hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, daffodils and other narcissi are normally grown in ceramic bowls with no drainage. Although they do sell plastic bowls for this purpose, the glass and ceramic bowls are better for it.

Larger bulbs like the lilies that are grown as individual specimens are best grown in large flowerpots that stand in their own dish. Planting them in plastic containers with good drainage and placing those containers in decorative china or ornamental ceramic bowls and containers is best.

A favorite among bulbs has to be the daffodil. There is such a wide variety of daffodils that it would be possible to have different types in flower from early winter until well into the spring. They belong to the Narcissus genus and “daffodil” is used more specifically for those flowers having prominent trumpets and a single bloom on each stem. Usually you would think they are yellow, but there are cream colored daffodils, cream and orange, orange, etc. The come with varying sizes of trumpets and some of them have several blooms on one stem.

You want to plant daffodils in late summer. Half fill a bowl with damp compost or bulb fiber. When planted, the tops of the bulbs should be just about level with the rim of the bowl. You will want to space them so they are close together but not touching. A full bowl will give you the best display planter. You should then fill the bowl within 1 cm. of the rim. You can water the bowl well and allow it to drain through the drainage holes, then wrap the bowl in polythene and place it in a cool spot. Be sure to check it regularly to keep the compost damp. If it’s not, you should water it. After some time, you can bring the bowl inside and gradually increase the warmth around it after the shoots are 5 cm. (2 inches) high.

Crocuses and tulips are another popular spring bulb. They have flowers in every shade and many new shades. Pick early types of tulips that will cope with a certain degree of warmth in order to force for winter. These will give you better results.

These are easy enough to grow indoors, but remember that if you want them to stand the test of time, you should truly plan on putting them outdoors after you’re finished. If you choose to keep them indoors, then you need to pay attention to their needs and remember that they won’t be in bloom continuously.

A lot of indoor flowering plants are grown from bulbs, stems or tubers. Find out more about these bulbs and how to grow them inside by reading the following article. Click here for more information.