How To Grow Bulbs in Water


Spring bulbs have everything they need to bloom already stored within their bulb structure. This storage allows you to force the bulbs into bloom without the need of potting soil, since the bulbs do not require access to the soil nutrients. Bulbs that grow well in water without the need for soil are hyacinth, crocus and narcissus--including both the paperwhite narcissus and the daffodil. Force the bulbs into bloom and enjoy the flowers in late winter when most plants are still dormant.

Step 1

Fill a shallow dish half-full with pebbles. Use a dish that is at least 3 inches deep. Use clean landscaping pebbles, aquarium rocks or floral marbles.

Step 2

Push the flat end of the bulbs into the pebbles just deep enough to support them upright. Space multiple bulbs ½ inch apart.

Step 3

Fill the dish with water until the level of the water is 1/8 inch from the bottom of the bulb. Do not place the bulb directly in the water, as this causes rot.

Step 4

Place hyacinth and crocus in a 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit location for eight weeks and place daffodils in this location for 12 weeks, as these bulbs require cold treatment in order to bloom. Add water as necessary to maintain the level in the dish. Paperwhite narcissus does not require cold treatment.

Step 5

Move the bulbs to a 65 F room that receives bright light after cold treatment, or immediately after planting in the case of paperwhites. Replenish the water in the dish as necessary to maintain the water level. Most bulbs begin blooming within three to four weeks.

Tips and Warnings

  • Bulbs grown in water cannot be replanted to the garden after flowering, as they did not have access to nutrients to replenish themselves during the flowering period. Dispose of these bulbs and purchase fresh bulbs for future forcing.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish
  • Pebbles
  • Bulbs


  • Penn State Extension: Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Bloom
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Winter Beauty
Keywords: bulbs in water, forcing flower bulbs, water forced bulbs

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.