Deep purple hyacinth. Tiny yellow crocus petals. Bright white paperwhite blossoms. If you find yourself dreaming of spring flowers, grab some garden gloves and fancy pots and bring those dreams to life.
Bulbs of flowering plants such as hyacinth, grape hyacinth, amaryllis, and crocus can be tricked into flowering early. Before planting an indoor garden of potted bulbs, make sure to buy precooled bulbs.
When planting the bulbs, put them in pea gravel, small stones and keep them close together but not touching. Leave at least the tip of the bulb peeking out of the planting medium. Give them enough water to soak their roots only.
Some bulbs, like tulips, have a flat spot. The large outer leaves will usually grow from this side. Plant the bulb with the flat spot toward the outside of the pot. When the stem and blossom appear, the larger leaves will drape over the edge of the pot.
Once the plants have started to grow, bring them into a warm, bright spot in the house. You can encourage your bulbs to have longer stems by keeping them in absolute darkness until their flowers begin to open.
Some bulbs to try this winter: Paperwhites. Planted in a clear container filled with gravel, their roots will sprout in a day or so. Foliage soon follows, with sprouts in three to five weeks. Amaryllis. The bulb kits are easy to assemble. Keep the sprouting bulb in a bright spot in your house. Let the top of the soil become dry before rewatering the plant. Amaryllis can bloom two or three times during winter. When the first bloom fades, cut it down almost to the bulb and let it dry out for a week or so. If the bulb is healthy and vigorous, it will send up another shoot. Try it again after the second bloom fades, and it may even show off one more time before it needs a rest until next season. Large-flowering crocus. It takes 12 to 14 weeks to root in gravel or water. Planting different colors and heights will make a colorful spring table decoration. Hyacinth. This plant has heavenly fragrances and interesting blossoms. The blooms take about 12 weeks to get going, but once you take a whiff, you'll be hooked on them. Tulips and daffodils. These can be tough to force into bloom because they take a long time to root, even at steady room temperatures, and can require more light than a normal home atmosphere will provide. Some varieties can take up to 15 weeks to start growing. Grape hyacinth (muscari). This plant has small, adorable flowers and the bulb is easy to force. Have patience, though, because it can take up to 16 weeks to start sprouting. Lily of the valley. Look for the tiny white bells to appear in as little as three weeks.