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Forcing Iris Bulbs for Winter Enjoyment

Written by Mindy on March 1st, 2019

Nothing beats having a hint of spring in your home during the dreary winter months. While many people force tulips, paperwhites, daffodils, hyacinths, and the famous amaryllis, did you know that you can also force iris bulbs. Well, you can and it is easier than what you think.


To begin this process, you will need to pull out your calendar. Why? Well, the iris bulb requires 13 to 15 weeks of chill time before it can be forced to bloom. Once you have the date by which you want to begin the blooming process, you will need to count back and prepare to chill your bulbs. At this point, you have two choices in how this is done. One way is to plant the bulbs and then chill them. While this works wonderfully, I have found that this can be somewhat troublesome because planted containers take up a lot of room. A different approach is to simply chill the bulbs and plant them after the chilling process is done. This is the technique that I choose to force my bulbs.

Another factor to consider is where you store your bulbs during the chilling process. Any bulb storage needs to be located in a cool environment away from any organic material that may ripen or decompose. When you talk about placing your bulbs in the fridge, you are talking about having no fresh fruits or vegetables in the fridge during this process. For me, this is not possible so I have a small refrigerator by which I chill my bulbs. If you do not have a separate fridge for this purpose, chill your bulbs in the basement or unheated garage.

Once the chilling process is complete, select your container. Unless you are planting dwarf irises, you will need a deep pot that can hold the height of this bulb. You will also need one that has a drainage hole in the bottom to keep the bulb from getting too wet. Next, add drainage material and top this layer with an all-purpose potting soil mix. Place your iris bulbs on top of this planting medium and continue to fill with soil until you reach the neck of the bulb. After all the bulbs have been planted, water the bulbs in until you see moisture trickle out the bottom of the pot.

Place your planted container in a warm room but gradually expose the bulbs to sunlight until the leaves break ground. After this happens, display your forced bulbs in a location that receives full sun. Continue to water as needed and in two to three weeks your iris bulbs will greet you with colorful blooms.


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