Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Force Plants to Flower

By Tracy Morris ; Updated September 21, 2017

When seeking to hasten the end of winter or bring some early color into the home, some gardeners force bulbs, perennials and the branches of flowering trees. Forcing a plant is a process in which the gardener induces the plant to begin its reproductive cycle, thereby forcing it to flower. Forcing a plant is also known as photo-manipulation, blooming or flower forcing.


Place pottery shards in the bottom of a terra cotta container.

Fill the container with a mix of equal parts peat moss, sand, vermiculite and potting soil.

Plant bulbs in the container with the pointed side up. Space the bulbs so that they do not touch.

Water thoroughly.

Label each container with the name of the bulb and the date it was planted.

Place the bulbs in a refrigerator or a cool, dark cellar to initiate root and shoot growth. The temperatures should remain between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the bulbs should be left in the dark for 12 to 16 weeks.


Place the perennial in a location where it will receive 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness at a time. A closet, cellar or unheated garage is an ideal location.

Attach an LED plant grow light to a timer. Set the timer to turn on and off every 12 hours so that the plant gets 12 hours of light as well.

Place a digital thermometer next to your plant to monitor the temperature. Plants should be kept in temperatures that range around 60 F during the lighted hours.

Wait two weeks for the plant to begin flowering.


Wait until temperatures are consistently above freezing and branches begin to bud.

Select trees and shrubs that are known for showy displays of springtime blossoms. Good examples include forsythia, red bud and tulip tree.

Cut branches 12 inches long.

Hold branches underwater, cut 1 inch from the end and split the end with a knife.

Place branches in a vase and put the vase in a cool room with temperatures around 65 F and low-lighting conditions.

Change the water every two days and mist the branches to keep buds from drying.

Move your branches into a well-lit room when they begin to bloom.


Things You Will Need

  • Bulbs
  • Terra cotta pot
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Peat moss
  • Sand
  • Vermiculite
  • Garden trowel
  • Watering can
  • Masking tape
  • Marker
  • Refrigerator
  • Pottery shards
  • Potted perennial
  • Closet with a door that closes
  • Digital timer
  • Digital thermometer
  • LED grow light
  • Forcing bulbs
  • Pruning shears
  • Vase
  • Knife
  • Spray bottle
  • Water


  • Longer bulb storage time results in taller flowers. Shorter time means smaller plants.
  • When forcing branches, blooms will last longer if they are not placed in direct sunlight.

About the Author


Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.