How to Force Tulip Bulbs in Water

How to Force Tulip Bulbs in Water

How to Force Tulip Bulbs in Water - Sand & Sisal

Give me flowers any day of the week and see me smile, but give me tulips and you have just made this lady a very happy woman! I adore tulips. Blame it on my genes, I’m Dutch. In years past you could find me each fall, out in the garden with my bulb digger, planting a multitude of spring blooming bulbs. I think my record year (as far as bulb planting effort is concerned) was 450 bulbs. My house looked FABULOUS! But that was a lot of work. For all you non-green thumbs and impatient peeps, I want to share a little trick about How to Force Tulip Bulbs in Water.

 I’m going to share actually 2 ways how to force bulbs in water:
#1) The: “proper” gardener way (ie: Martha Stewart’s method I’m sure)
#2) The: “they’ll never know I cheated – way” (ie: enough said).
Both ways result in a vase full of gorgeous blooms.  Choose your method based on your conscience. heehee.
Let’s first take a look at the “Proper Gardener/ Martha’s” way…. do you have your sunhat, galoches, and gardening gloves on? Yes? Well then darlin’, shall we proceed?

lady gardener
There are a few things you need to do first in order to ensure your tulips will bloom.
#1) Bigger IS Better. In the fall, choose large Tulips Bulbs- Assorted Colors of Tulip Bulbs from your garden center, grocery store, or flower shop. The larger the bulb, the bigger the bloom. Pass on discount, smaller bulbs. You will not be happy with the results.
#2) Bulbs need a specific amount of cold-sleepy time. Most tulips need between 12-15 weeks. The cold-sleepy time will be listed on the bulb package. Each variety can vary. You can buy your bulbs and then place them in your refrigerator or this amount of time. Keep them away from apples though. The gas emitted from fruit like apples will prevent them from blooming. So a garage fridge is a great option.  Always chill for the recommended time and never less. Chilling for less time will result in zero blooms.


#3) Now that your bulbs have been chilled the minimum amount of time, take them out of the fridge. Gather together a tall vase, some Clear Glass Beads and your bulbs.

glass beads


#4) Place a handful or two of glass beads in your glass vase. Arrange the bulbs, pointed side up, on top of the glass beads. Place another handful or two of additional glass beads around the bulbs.

#5) Fill water in the vase to just under the bottom of the bulbs. You do not want the water to touch the base of the bulbs.

#6) Place in a room with bright, indirect sunlight and watch the bulbs grow! Roots will work their way down through the glass beads into the water. Be sure to keep the water always at an optimal level.

How how force bulbs in water - tips

After a few weeks, your tulips will look like this (Pictured below). The tall sides of the vase help support the tulip stems.
Ready for the “They’ll never know I cheated” way?
#1) Buy potted bulbs from the grocery store, flower store, or garden center. Choose ones that have not bloomed yet.
#2) Empty the pot, and gently shake off all the loose soil from the bulbs, all the while, protecting the tender roots.
#3) Rinse each sprouting bulb under cool water to wash away the soil.
#4) Trim roots to 2 inches long with scissors and place in glass vase with glass beads. Follow the rest of the directions as listed above.

How to Force Tulip Bulbs in Water #5) Give the tulip bulbs to someone you love!

These gorgeous tulips pictured below were given to my mother from a friend. I’ll be giving my vase to my little sister for her birthday!

Forcing Tulips in Water

Forcing tulips in water is a fun, easy, and a unique way to present tulips that most people have not seen before. I think showing the natural beauty of the bulb is a pure, modern, and minimalist approach to floral design. Give it a try, and I promise not to tell which method you choose!
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  1. I am SO excited to try this! I didn’t know you could force tulip bulbs to bloom. I agree that this would be such a thoughtful gift idea and am already thinking of a couple of friends that could use a little cheering up. Thanks for sharing how to do it–both versions. 🙂

    • dorothy morrison says:

      I will try this I love working with this. Thank you.

      • Marilyn Klein says:

        Someone bought me a vase of tulip bulbs that are in water/forced. they bloomed and now the red petals fell off. What do I do now with the plants/bulbs? can they be forced again? how? and when?

    • How long will bulbs keep in the refrigerator? Is there a maximum time limit?

  2. Love the second method! I am a huge fan of tulips, too — so elegant and available in so many beautiful colors!

  3. Thanks, did not know I could also force tulips.
    Just forced Hyacinths. See the one in my spring header.

  4. I love the “they’ll never know I cheated method”!! I am an instant gratification kind of girl. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for sharing this. Since I didn’t buy any bulbs in the fall, will be trying the cheater’s method.

  6. Thanks for this great tip – I’ve been wanting to try this for years! Pinned!

  7. Well, you had me at “fresh flowers”! I am so trying this out! Thanks for sharing, Kim!
    xo Heidi

  8. I love tulips and I love the fact that you can get them to bloom faster! 🙂

  9. Great tip and love the pictures 🙂 Pinned!

  10. First off, I’m pretty jealous you got this offer when I REALLY wanted it! 😉 Secondly, I am trying to force tulips this year and now I’m worried they won’t bloom. I just have them potted in dirt and they seem to be growing roots but they were in my fridge for like 6-7 weeks, probably not quite long enough. I guess time will tell! Tulips are my favorite flower.

  11. Yippee! I love the cheater’s method! I would love the other method if I ever got my act together in the fall. Since that didn’t happen, I’m going to try the other.

  12. Lorrin Davis says:

    This is fantastic, as I am not yet the gardener of my dreams! Actually, I’m not experienced at all with plants or flowers. So my question, do you water these, and will it take longer to see a sprout than normally planting them in soil?

    • Kim Wilson says:

      Yes, for both methods you must keep the water level consistent and be sure to change the water probably once a week to reduce bacteria levels. To answer your second question, I haven’t noticed any significant difference in sprouting time between soil vs. water.

      • Barbara says:

        I am Dutch too! You know what they say..if you ain’t Dutch you ain’t much! I had some forced bulbs but it is time to replace them. Love your second idea! Thanks so much.

        • I am dutch too and come from the tulip fields in North Holland! I know the ins and out of forcing tulips etc to grow out of season! Living in the North Island of New Zealand and way up north the weather is so temperate you don’t get frost often, maybe once every ten years and about -1 at night! So put my fathers cap on and hid the tulips in a paper bag in the darkest and coldest place I could find, the fridge! 12 weeks later get them out and do with them what you want, but keep them in the shade until the stems have grown as if its warm the leaves remain short and the tulip sort of sits on top! Done that one year when we had guests and it was a hilarious table decoration! Once you have done it you will find countles other bulbs will grow for you this way!

      • Hi Kim! I wonder when we change water once a week, will it affect the flowers/ plants because we take them out of the vase & put them back so often?

        • Hi Mai,
          Many have asked the same question. Don’t worry about it, the flowers survive just fine as long as you are gentle. I slowly pull them out, rinse and clean everything then put in some of the glass beads, then the flowers, then sprinkle in more beads. Lastly I fill the vase with water. It takes some care, but to have gorgeous blooms in winter is worth the little effort.
          Have a great weekend!

          • Mai Mills says:

            Thank you very much for the specific instruction. Have a great day!

          • Alis Mazlemian says:

            Hi Kim,
            What do you do with the bulbs after they are done blaming? Can you and How you preserve them for the next year? Do I keep them in the vase whole year long or what I should do? We have ours and they are done blooming , now they are all yellow ish 🙁 and I don’t know what I should do :(.

          • Hi Alis!
            I actually address this question several times in the comments. Look at the last few comments and you will see my suggestions. Thanks!

  13. Great!!!!!!!!!!!! i’m going to try this.

  14. Great tutorial! I am wondering if this will work with my tulip bulbs — I bought some in the fall, but forget about them, and they’ve been sitting in dark garage all winter! Some of them have started to root.

  15. Will this just work in fall or since it is grown inside could you have year round tulips growing (as long as it wasn’t too hot)?

    • Kim Wilson says:

      I imagine you could as long as they were kept refrigerated, though I haven’t attempted that.

  16. I also love tulips but wasn’t able to get my bulbs planted this last fall when I moved into my house. Can I force these bulbs up in a vase for this spring and then transplant them in my outside garden? If so, when? I’m excited with this potential!

  17. Hi! I just tried this with some tulip bulbs that I forget to plant last fall (the tulips spent the winter in my home’s garage) and so far, two of the bulbs have bloomed!

  18. I did this. They were beautiful. Now that the petals have fallen off and the bulbs look dry, how do i preserve them? Someone told me to wrap the bulbs in foil and freeze them for next season, is this true?

    • Kim Wilson says:

      Hi Lori,
      It depends on where you live. In most of the US (except further north like zone 5 and above) the tulips act like annuals, so if you don’t live far North then there is no use transplanting them, they aren’t like daffodils that will keep on multiplying. I wish they were.

  19. Judi Neville says:

    I received these as a gift is it possible to save and replant the bulbs after they bloomed

    • Kim Wilson says:

      It depends on where you live. In most of the US (except far north) the tulips act like annuals, so if you don’t live far North then there is no use transplanting them. You could try researching it and maybe ask a reputable garden center in your area.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  20. Grace Rodriguez says:

    Why in the last picture you have a spikey grate at the bottom of the vase and not the glass beads? Is the last picture of the purchased tulips from Costco (I bought them, that’s why I know) and not ones you forced yourself?

    • Kim Wilson says:

      Hi Grace,
      I explain in the sentence right above the last pic that those tulips were given to my mom from a friend of hers. I’m not sure where her friend got them. The tulips that I forced (with the glass beads) ended up being pretty yellow tulips. 😉

    • LOVINIT says:

      Seriously, Take a chill pill and remove the send button from your computer.

  21. How long does your personal method take? I think I would like to do this for wedding center pieces next year with hyacinths.

  22. Crafty grandma says:

    What a super great idea! with our usually ending in May and on some rare occasion as late as June, we don’t have any tulips until mid-June and by then I am waiting impatiently to plant my summer flowers or they won’t bloom until August (if we are lucky) all depends on Mother Nature’s mood! So yes by March April I would love some nice blooms in the house!! Thank you for the idea!

  23. I think second method is good to experiment at your home. Red tulip bulbs are the famous and looks beautiful and second method is an innovative for me to grow in glass flower vase.

  24. Can you do this with any bulbs?

    • Great question! To be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve tried forcing many different types of bulbs but each bulb is different and requires a specific time period of “cooling”. It’d be fun to experiment with though! 😉

  25. May I put NOW -08.11 and have tulip before spring,im my room?

  26. All the tulips that I have ever seen in my local store come back year after year and reproduce more bulbs. I have always left them in the ground year after year and occasionally divide them. In harsh freezes I have lost some here and there but I have never heard of tulips that only bloom once and then are gone at the end of the year. All of mine bloom in spring then die back and return the following year.

    • Hi Tanya! I’m assuming you must live somewhere more northern, like zone 5 or above? I’m in zone 9 and our climate doesn’t support the conditions for tulips to reproduce. You are a very lucky lady to have all those gorgeous tulips year after year! I’m envious. Here is a great article that explains why only certain growing zones will see reoccurring tulips.

      • i bought several bags of angelique tulip bulbs and put them in my frig 6 weeks ago (i live in zone 8) i love your idea of forcing the bulbs in glass containers and would love to do this for a march 8th engagement party at my house. could you please suggest a date i plant them to ensure blooming for this party. also, how do i change the water and how often do you suggest i do this? thanks so much…just know they will make beautiful centerpieces!

      • I used to live in Tucson and yes they reproduce and mulipy there e

    • Yes,I was thinking the same thing when I read tulips only bloom once. My tulips bloom every year also….

  27. Thanks for this tutorial! I was wondering, how long do they last after blooming? I am really excited about the possibility of transplanting them in my yard in the spring. A couple years ago I planted a BUNCH of Tulips in my yard & none grew dew to bad freezing with little snow 🙁 Maybe this way I can insure I have some tulips around 🙂

    • Hi Emily,
      Not necessarily. Tulips will only reproduce if you live in VERY northern planting zones (like zone 4 or above). I have no idea where you live, but I couldn’t get a tulip to reproduce if I tried!

      • I live in Alaska. And I have had tulips come back year after year, but we moved to a new home & I wanted to fill our yard with Tulips, but none grew because of the bad weather that particular winter. Not sure if I want to try again or not. So i’m hoping this will help?we’ll see 🙂

  28. I am so thrilled I stumbled upon this post! I, by chance, found some sprouting tulip bulbs in a baggie in the garage this weekend and knew the ground was still to cold to plant them. So I washed them off, grabbed a vase and some glass beads, and set off to plant. In just two days they have developed all new roots and some have shot up another inch. This is amazing! Thank you for sharing and brightening up our home.

  29. I am wanting to use tulips for a May 1st baby shower. Noticed several people have asked for a time schedule and have not seen an answer. If I use the second method of removing potted bulbs how long until they would bloom? Need to know how soon to move to glass vase for blooms May 1. Thanks

    • Hi Glenda,
      I would love to give you an exact time frame, but I can’t. It all depends on the type of tulip, the temperature of your home, the amount of sunlight it’s exposed to. I’ve had readers tell me they started seeing spouts and growth within just a few days. Mine took about 2-3 weeks tops. I’m not sure where you live, but where I live, all tulips are completely done blooming by May 1st. I’d have to have bulbs in the refrigerator to produce blooms that late in the season.
      Hope that helps a bit. 😉

  30. Okay… My tulips bloomed and they were stunning. How to I “put them to sleep?” Do I trim the stems off and take out of the water? Do they need to dry before going in the fridge? Do they g1340537rHcaneo in a paper bag? HELP!

  31. Ahh thinking Spring I have a frig in the garage,I am getting ready to put my tulips out there and it does say 12 weeks,so Ill see where they are at 10

  32. Tulips are my favorite! I have them lining my front walk, but I love the idea of filling the INSIDE of my house with them! This is definitely happening.

  33. Hi Kim!
    I’m super excited to try this. I have a couple questions…I read somewhere that you could have tulips year round. How is that? Just by constantly keeping some in the fridge to “sleep” and rotating them, even through winter? How do you put the tulips to “sleep”? TIA!! 🙂

    • Hi Erin! You can have tulips all year round but the bulbs require their 12-15 weeks of cold storage (sleep) first. If they don’t have that then they will not bloom. Hope that helps.

  34. once the tulips bloom and die where do i cut stem in order to continue.

    • Hi Ray, If you want to try to plant the bulb for future seasons (which I have not had success with in my warm climate) then you need to wait until the leaves have turned yellow and withered. Then you can cut the leaves off at the base of the tulip. The reason why you want to wait for the leaves to turn yellow is because this allows the plant to absorb as much nutrients from the sun and makes for a healthier bulb and gives the bulb a better chance of reblooming next year. That rule also holds true for any bulb.

  35. I was given tulips like this and I think I overwatered them. They are not so pretty anymore. Please help. What can I do

    • Hi Joan, I’m not sure how you over watered, unless you covered the entire bulbs with water, which would cause rot. There’s not much you can do. Tulips only live a very short time. I’m sorry.

      • SOLARDELL says:

        HI KIM,


        • Hi Dell! I love that you are experimenting with this! I think it’s a great idea! Who wouldn’t want tulips in Florida in July? I think they will do just fine. May I recommend that you keep them high up in the refrigerator and in a paper bag. This will insulate them a bit and not allow any gases released from other produce in your fridge to effect them. ~KIM

  36. Dannielle says:

    I tried this with some crocus bulbs that I had forgotten to plant in the fall. It’s worked really well so far, so well that I pulled out two other vases and am now trying daffodils, but recently the plant has started to turn brown. They certainly aren’t lacking for water, and I’m certain I’m not over watering either. If anyone has any ideas they would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  37. Very cool. I spotted this at Pinterest and had to come find out more. I’m going to try these for my senior mom who hasn’t felt up to going outside to garden yet. Thank you so much.

  38. Hoe is het? I fell in love with tulpen living in Rotterdam and Den Haag. Thanks for the tip on forcing.

  39. Rosa Diana says:

    This is perfect! I will be sharing on my blog. Thanks for the tip!

  40. Good afternoon,

    First of all I’m obsessed with your website! I just made my own succulent garden modelled after yours. I have everything I need to start the tulip forcing project! (I’m really excited!) 🙂

    I have carefully read through all of the comments, despite this I have a question about watering the bulbs. Should I be taking the bulbs out, adding the water then putting them back in, in order to avoid getting them wet?

    Thank you for your time and great project ideas! 🙂

    • Hi Meaghan! What a sweet thing to say! Thank you so much for following along with the blog. You don’t have to take the bulbs out to change the water, but you can if you want. I would let the dirty water strain through my fingers as I poured it out and then pour in fresh water, swirl it a bit, dump it out again (to ensure I was giving the plant the freshest water possible) and then add the final amount of fresh water. You are allowed to get bulbs wet, you just do not want the bulbs to sit immersed in water for any length of time, hence the reason why the water level should stay just below the base of the bulbs. Hope that clarifies things a bit. ~KIM

  41. Georgann Rucker says:

    So if I want to do this now. Where do I get tulips that are ready? Or do I have to buy them and freeze them for 15 weeks?

    • Hi Georgann! You can purchase bulbs now, but need to put them in the fridge (not freezer) for the allotted time or you can try my 2nd method that I explain in the second half of the post. ~KIM

  42. I got some forced bulbs for my Bdaytheynwre gorgeous! But, now they are done blooming..what do I do with them now? Can I make them bloom again, or do I store them…I’d love to see them keep blooming…Thanks, Terri

  43. Hi.. I Just received tulip bulbs from my friends who recently visited Holland. I am so excited to try this method… but may I ask.. any special instruction for ‘chilling time’ in the fridge… should they be just wrapped in a paper or so….? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Andrea! What a nice gift to receive from your friend’ trip!!! I have just placed my bulbs in a brown paper lunch sack in the fridge. Make sure not to store them next to apples or any fruits that will admit off their ripening gases. That could possibly harm the bulbs.

      • Hi Kim,

        Thank you so much for your reply. I actually live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and today is our hot summer months… So, I really am excited to try planting a tulip… I don’t know if it will ever survive indoors… but I want to try.

        I do hope it works. Thank you so much…

        Ps. ever heard of anything like wrapping it in a green moss while being in the brown bag?

        Thanks! xx

  44. Where can I find bulbs now

  45. I can’t wait to try this! Tulips are my favorite, but I have so much clay in my soil that I’ve never had good luck with them. Now I can have them year-round!

  46. This is great!
    After chilling the bulbs and preparing them to bloom, how long would it take them to bloom?
    My son’d elementary school will have a huge party to celebrate The Netherlands late in February. They will study the country throughout the year. Having the tulips to help us decorate the school would be just great!

  47. Playing with Bulbs and Mother Nature! It is fabulous. Coming from Florida where it could always be warm/hot or warm one day and freezing the next (you know anything below 70 degrees is life threatening to a Floridian)…we always put our bulbs in the garage fridge. Not the one for the beer. Tulips, Hyacinths, Amaryllis, Crocus, Irises, Daffodils, you name it….we put them in the fridge for the appointed amount of time and then we’d plant them in the yard (depending on what it was) or ‘force’ them…You would never see Daffodils coming up in spring or Crocus coming up through a light dusting of Snow in Florida…I hope you all enjoy playing with bulbs.

  48. I did this with paperwhites! So pretty! I did not put them in the frig, but just put 3 in the water. They did great. This is an awesome science project for kids. They get to watch the roots go down and the stems go up. Before long, they see them bloom.

    • Hi Dawn!
      So glad you tried it. And yes, the paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs that are in the stores now for the holiday season have already been “cold-seasoned” by the manufacturer and are ready to bloom. I love how pretty paperwhites are, too bad I can’t stand their strong fragrance, or I’d have them all over my house for Christmas! 😉
      Have a great week!

  49. Goulaches?! Goulash is a Hungarian stew! 😀 I suspect you meant “galoches”

  50. I’m in Malaysia, is this still possible???

  51. You put “Martha’ to shame with such easy directions!! I will be bookmarking this page for the coming fall. I too plant zillions of tulips and daffodils at my farm, but how lovely to enjoy them inside.

  52. I got tulips growing in water and now the tulips are wilting and turning yelllow. What do I do with them? Can they keep growing or do I have to plant them in the ground?

  53. This may be a silly question, but what kind of stores carry pre chilled or potted bulbs? I live in Oklahoma and am having a difficult time finding them. I’m interested in trying your 2nd method, I can’t help my impatience for beautiful tulips! 🙂

    • You can find potted tulips at stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart and grocery stores. All of those stores I mentioned have had them (inside of course) since before Valentines. At least they do here in Virginia.

  54. Hi! I’m just wondering, if I grow these tulips indoors, how long do they last before they die/wilt? Will they have the same length season as an outdoor tulip would? I live in Illinois, and here, my bulbs come back year after year outside. I realize that it won’t do that inside, but I’m just wondering how long the flower will last and remain gorgeous looking? Thanks! Awesome post!

  55. Thank you for this post! I read through some of the comments and see that you have addressed my question already; I just need a little clarity about what to do with the bulbs after they have bloomed and the leaves have yellowed. I would like to transfer them to my garden but am unsure of how to do this or when th proper time is. Google told me that I live in zone 8a (dallas). Do you have any advice you could give me on how to transfer my tulip bulbs?
    Thank you,

    • To be honest, I just throw mine out because tulip bulbs are not that expensive. But you can cut off the yellowed leaves and roots, dry it all off well, and then store them in a paper bag and then in August place the bag in the fridge and then plant in the ground in late November if you live in zone 8a. I can’t guarentee the bulb will bloom again, but no harm in trying.

  56. hi ! how long it takes for tulips to grow ? thanks

  57. Ok so I received mine as a gift just like the ones your mom have….now what to do? They have fully bloomed and I really want to keep the bulbs but it’s still winter so I cay plant them, do I cut the flowers off? Do I let the die off? please tell me what to do now?!?!!

    • Keep it watered and in sunlight and wait until the leaves have turned yellow. Then cut off the yellowed leaves and roots, dry it all off well, and then store them in a paper bag. Then in summer, place the bag in the fridge for 12-15 weeks. Plant in the ground in late fall or before the first frost. I can’t guarentee the bulb will bloom again, but no harm in trying. Good luck!

  58. Whitney O. says:

    I started this method back several months ago when I refrigerated the bulbs. I left them in for 10 weeks. The day I “planted” the bulbs I had sprouts. They were just dying to come alive! I have been thrilled every day for the past 5 weeks, just watching in awe how these tulips grow and blossom. I planted all different breeds and colors. Because I live in an apartment building with no way to plant outside this is the perfect way to garden indoors.

  59. Hiya, can you tell me how big the vase is that you used? How many bulbs do you recommend?

  60. could this be done with other bulbs besides tulips?

    • do the bulbs needs to be chilled?

    • Yes it can. If you read through some of the comments you will find how others shared that they used different types of bulbs. And yes they all need to be chilled first unless you are doing the “fake it” method (taking them out of pots).

  61. Hi Kim!
    I’m follow all the steps and my tulip bulbs are spouting, however they are getting moldy. The sprouts look healthy but some of the bulbs are getting moldy. Is there a way I can cure them? Is it super bad news? One of the bulbs is even getting pink dots.

    • Hi Ester!
      They must be getting wet. Here is a tip you can try. Take them out and rinse them under clean water, rubbing the bulb gently. Then pat the bulb dry with paper towel. Put them back into the vase with fresh water and the beads being careful avoid pouring water on the bulbs and make sure the base of the bulbs aren’t sitting in the water.

      Hope that helps.~ KIM

  62. could you please tell me about how long it takes from the time you start to force the
    bulb till they bloom, we need yellow tulips for wedding center pieces. thank you so much

  63. Marie-Lou says:

    Hi !
    Since I have only one fridge, I was wondering if it was possible to put the bulbs in a sealed plastic container so as to avoid the gas emitted from fruit like apples ? Would it suffocate the bulbs ? Thank you !

    • Hi Marie-Lou,
      Great question! I do not know the exact answer to your question. All I know is that in all my research, they recommend storing the bulbs in a paper bag. I’m guess that is because it allows for air circulation and moisture control. Sorry, I can’t be of more help. 😉

      ~ KIM

  64. So pretty, I did not know this can be done, I’m going to start this weekend?

  65. Now that the petals are spent what can I do with the flowers? Will they flower again??

  66. I was gifted some tulips like this and they have done exceedingly well. Now, what? Do I trim the stalks and refrigerate the bulbs for 12 weeks and put them in the vase again?


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