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How to Plant Bulbs in Water

By Debra L Turner ; Updated September 21, 2017

You don’t have to wait for the warm weather to enjoy spring blooming bulb plants. They’re easy to force, or coax, into bloom whenever you wish. This is a fun project to share with your kids, and they’ll love watching the bulbs every day once they begin to shoot up. The only disappointing thing about forcing bulbs to bloom this way is that they won’t flower again. The best bulbs for forcing in water are narcissus paper-white, crocus and hyacinth.

Paper-Whites and Crocuses

Fill a shallow container to about an inch from the rim with clean pebbles or stones. Set the paper-white or crocus bulbs on the pebbles about a quarter inch apart.

Add some more pebbles in between the bulbs to cover the bottom third of them. Slowly add water to the container, almost to the bottom of the bulbs. Don’t let the bulbs sit directly in the water, but it does need to be very close to them so that developing roots can reach it easily.

Move the container to a cool spot where the temperature will remain between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the bulbs will receive little if any light at all. Check on them each day and replenish the water as needed to maintain the original level.

Tug on the bulbs gently in a couple of weeks to see if they feel like they’re rooting. They’ll resist your pull when this occurs. Relocate them to a cool, brightly lit spot out of direct sun when green shoots appear. They should bloom in about three to five weeks.

Hyacinths, But Different

Refrigerate a hyacinth bulb for three months prior to forcing in water.

Set the bulb on top of the open jar with a diameter slightly smaller than that of the bulb. Add water to the jar to about a quarter inch below the bulb. Don’t allow it to sit in the water, which will cause it to rot.

Place the container in the refrigerator and replenish the water as necessary. The bulb’s roots will begin to grow and reach for the water. In about six to 10 weeks a shoot will emerge from the top of the bulb.

Move the bulb to a cool location where it won’t receive any light until the shoot begins to turn green, in about 10 to 14 days.

Relocate your hyacinth to a brightly lit location out of direct sun. It should bloom in two to four weeks.


Things You Will Need

  • Narcissus paper-white, crocus and hyacinth bulbs
  • Glass marbles or clean 1/4 to 1/2 inch pebbles or stones
  • Shallow container with no drainage hole
  • Small glass


  • Suggest to the kids that using marbles instead of pebbles or stones might turn their bulb into a very decorative centerpiece.

About the Author


A full-time writer since 2007, Axl J. Amistaadt is a DMS 2013 Outstanding Contributor Award recipient. He publishes online articles with major focus on pets, wildlife, gardening and fitness. He also covers parenting, juvenile science experiments, cooking and alternative/home remedies. Amistaadt has written book reviews for Work At Home Truth.