Teaching Idea – Forcing Bulbs

updatedOver Christmas, I had the pleasure of lounging around in a house that is loaded with plants… including blooming ones. Usually I just keep my mouth shut and leave anything associated with plant material to the very capable care of my wife. But I couldn’t resist asking about the hyacinths she had made bloom during the holiday season. I thought that the growing bulbs might be of use to science teachers who want a novel way of studying root systems, especially in the dead of our nasty winter – so even though this isn’t technology related, I’m going to share the technique! Let’s work backwards for a moment; when the whole process is done, this is what you end up with;

bulbs_01Just those clean roots alone would be worth the effort for teachers trying to prepare root tip slides! So how is this accomplished? How do you get a bulb to bloom when it’s not supposed to? Well, it’s pretty simple really – just follow these steps;

  • Put your hyacinth bulb in a glass tumbler that has the rim slightly narrower than the bulb, so that the bulb sits on top. If you can’t find a glass narrow enough, stab the bulb with toothpicks so that you can suspend it. If you can, get a hold of some traditional hyacinth glasses;


  • Fill with water until it just touches the bottom of the bulb.
  • Put the glass in a cool, dark place, about 10-15 degrees Celcius until roots form and a shoot begins to emerge from the bulb tip.
  • Move the glass into the light and maintain the water level – enjoy the bloom!

You’ll have to be patient. The “cooling time” is general about 10-12 weeks. You can do this with other bulbs as well, but hyacinths are generally the only ones that work well with water only – others such as crocus, daffodils, tulips usually need soil. Narcissus can grown using the same method, just substitute a shallow pebble-filled dish for the glass.Want to buy great bulbs? Visit the Vesey’s site and get them to send you a catalog!



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