Fall is here, and already we are looking forward to spring. But why not bring a bit of spring indoors during the winter? An excellent way to do this is by forcing spring-blooming bulbs into bloom in midwinter according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension

Common bulbs used for forcing are tulip (require 15-18 weeks of chilling before planting), daffodil (chill 8-12 weeks), crocus (chill 6-8 weeks), grape hyacinth (chill 10-12 weeks). You can also use snowdrops and hyacinths.

“To help mimic winter, keep bulbs chilled in a refrigerator. Pot them up (in shallow pots) before the end of October and then keep them in a cool area until they sprout. Good areas include a barely heated garage, a barn, a cool basement, or an enclosed porch,” said Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Bring the container out of cool storage when growth pops up an inch or so above the soil and put it in a well-lit location. A full sun, southern exposure may get too warm and reduce blooming. Water the container lightly if the soil dries out. Plants will bloom in three to four weeks.

“Bulbs must develop a root system after planting but before bloom. Cool temperatures are needed for this to happen, and 40 degrees is ideal,” said Byers.

After blooming is done and the weather outside warms, gradually get the plants outdoors a few hours each day and then transplant them into the ground.

“Forcing bulbs is stressful to them and more tender types, like hyacinths and tulips, may not survive into next year,” said Byers.

For more information on forcing bulbs, call University of Missouri Extension at 417-881-8909 or visit MU Extension online at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene.