How to Force Tulip Bulbs in Water


Forcing a tulip bulb is to make a tulip bloom out of its natural season and involves the manipulation of the tulip's growth cycle. Always choose the largest bulbs in order to have the best blossoms, and select top-quality bulbs that are firm with no discolorations on the surface. Forcing tulips can be accomplished in nearly any container that can hold water. Since tulips grow tall, pick a container with tall sides to help support the flowers.

Step 1

Refrigerate your tulip bulbs for 15-17 weeks. Most spring bulbs need a period of chilling that mimics the winter temperatures before they can bloom. Place the bulbs in a box or a brown paper sack in order to keep them in the dark so premature growth does not occur.

Step 2

Fill your container halfway with pebbles, marbles or small stones. This helps give the container weight so the tulips will not fall over and gives the roots room to grow.

Step 3

Place the tulip bulbs close together in the container so they are touching, keeping their flat side down. Bury the bulbs in the pebbles, just deep enough to keep them from falling over. Keep most of the bulb above the pebble layer.

Step 4

Add enough water so that it touches the root plate on the bottom of the bulb. Do not cover the bulbs in water. This will rot the bulbs.

Step 5

Place the container of tulip bulbs in a cool, dark area, where the bulbs will grow their roots. Keep the water level constant.

Step 6

Move to a cool, sunny location once greenery has started to grow. Once the leaves begin to expand, the tulips can be brought into any location to enjoy.

Tips and Warnings

  • Forcing a bulb to flower is hard on the bulb. It uses all the bulb's food reserves to produce its flower out of season. Do not use the same bulbs for flowers the next season. Use different bulbs for forcing and let the used bulbs naturalize in the garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Tulip bulbs
  • Refrigerator
  • Box
  • Container
  • Pebbles
  • Water


  • University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program Factsheets: Forcing Bulbs
  • The University of Minnesota: Forcing Tulip Bulbs

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Beauty in Winter
Keywords: forcing tulip bulbs, forcing tulips, water forcing bulbs

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.