Growing Tulips Indoors (Complete Guide)

When grown outdoors, tulips have a very short flowering season. But what if you could enjoy these magnificent blooms at other times of the year? Well, you can, by growing them indoors. However, to do this successfully, you need to use some tricks of the trade to encourage your tulips to flourish indoors.

You first need to chill the bulbs to force them into growth. Then, you can either grow them in a pot with a quality potting mix, or you can even grow them in water.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing tulips indoors.

Forcing the Bulbs into Growth

Like many flowering spring bulbs, tulips need to be exposed to a period of cold temperatures before they will start to grow and bloom. This is referred to as “forcing” when it’s done manually rather than by leaving the bulbs in the ground over winter.

To force your bulbs into growth, you need to chill them in the refrigerator for a period of around 12 to 16 weeks. The best way to do this is to put them into a paper bag and then place this in the crisper section of your refrigerator.

This will give the bulbs the amount of chill that they need and will stimulate them into growth. Choose varieties such as Triumph, Darwin Hybrids, and Single and Double Earlies, as they are more successful when forcing them into growth.

Growing your Tulips in a Pot Indoors

Once your bulbs have been sufficiently chilled, you can plant them into a pot that you’ll be keeping indoors. Make sure that you select a pot that has plenty of drainage holes and choose a good-quality potting mix to grow your bulbs in.

Half-fill a suitable pot with potting mix and place the bulbs on top. Make sure that the pointed ends of the bulbs are facing upwards. Cover the bulbs with some more potting mix but make sure that the tips of the bulbs are still visible.

Place your bulb-filled pot into a dark spot in your home or garage that is quite cool. Leave the pot in this spot for around 6 to 8 weeks until you see the shoots starting to appear.

Once you see some shoots, bring the pot into a warm room and place them near a window that gets plenty of bright, filtered light. If you don’t have a bright spot in your home, you might need to invest in a grow light to place over your plants so that they get plenty of light on a daily basis.

You want to ensure that your bulbs are exposed to around 8 hours of bright light every day. Therefore, a grow light with a timer would be ideal.

If you get all of this right, your tulips should start blooming within 2 to 3 weeks.

Another benefit of growing tulips in pots this way is that the bulbs don’t mind being crowded. This means that you could grow several colors together in just one pot.

Growing your Tulips Indoors in Water

Another easy way to grow your tulips indoors is to grow them in water. This is an interesting way of growing them and something that you might like to try. Like before, you first need to chill your bulbs in order to force them into growth.

To grow your bulbs in water, you need to choose a small glass vase that will allow the bulb to sit just inside its neck. You can actually purchase special forcing vases for just this purpose.

Half-fill the vase with small pebbles and water. Place the bulb inside the neck of the vase so that the base of the bulb sits around 1 inch above the water. The idea here is that only the roots of the plant are submerged in water while the bulb remains perfectly dry. This is very important because if any portion of the bulb is allowed to sit in the water, it will begin to rot.

Once you have your bulb positioned correctly above the water in the vase, place this in a cool, dark spot for around 4 to 6 weeks or until you start to see a shoot appear at the top of the bulb. Then, bring the vase with the bulb back into a nice bright spot near a south-facing window.

You should start to see your bulb blooming within 2 or 3 weeks.

How to Get your Blooming Timing Right

You might want to try forcing some tulips into bloom for a special occasion, such as an anniversary or special birthday celebration. This is entirely possible if you get the timing right.

Here’s how to calculate the right timing:

  • Tulip bulbs require 12 to 16 weeks of chill time.
  • If growing in potting mix, the bulbs will need another 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark spot before the shoots appear.
  • Once the shoots appear, the bulbs should start blooming within 2 to 3 weeks.

Therefore, you want to start forcing your tulip bulbs around 20 to 27 weeks before you want the tulips to bloom. That’s around 5 to 6 months. But, don’t leave this to chance because there can be a variation in the times stated above.

Consequently, you might want to start chilling a few bulbs earlier and follow this with a few more bulbs a couple of weeks later. By doing this, you should be able to get the tulips blooming at just the right time for your special celebration.

What to Do with the Bulbs after they’ve Bloomed

Many people regard their forced bulbs as annuals and discard them after they’ve bloomed. However, if you want to keep the bulbs and reuse them another time, then you’ll have to feed them while they’re growing in the pot.

Just use some liquid fertilizer and apply this in diluted form every two weeks during the plant’s growth phase. This will allow the bulb to store some energy so that it can bloom for a second time after it has been planted in the garden.