With snow covering the ground across much of Iowa, the current winter climate isn’t hospitable for outdoor growth of flowers. But it’s the perfect time to prepare for spring by forcing bulbs indoors. Which plants work best with this method? What are some tips that will lead to success?

Forcing bulbs indoors can be challenging, but Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help.

To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

My amaryllis has finished blooming. How do I care for the amaryllis if I wish to save it?

After the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalk with a sharp knife. Make the cut 1 to 2 inches above the bulb. Don’t damage the foliage. For the bulb to bloom again next season, the plant must replenish its depleted food reserves. The strap-like leaves manufacture food, which is stored in the bulb. Place the plant in a sunny window and water when the soil surface is nearly dry. Fertilize the amaryllis every two to four weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution.

The amaryllis can be moved outdoors in late May. Harden or acclimate the plant to the outdoors by placing it in a shady, protected area for two or three days, then gradually expose it to longer periods of direct sun. Once hardened, select a site in partial to full sun. Dig a hole and set the pot into the ground. Outdoors, continue to water the plant during dry weather. Also, continue to fertilize the amaryllis once or twice a month through July. Bring the plant indoors in mid-September. Plants left indoors should be kept in a sunny window.

What should I do with my paperwhite narcissus bulbs after they are done blooming?

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs should be discarded after flowering. Paperwhites cannot be successfully forced again and are not winter hardy outdoors.

Can I save tulips that have been forced indoors?

Tulips, hyacinths and most other spring flowering bulbs usually are discarded after forcing. Most forced bulbs perform poorly when panted outdoors and attempts to force them again are usually unsuccessful. Daffodils, however, are an exception. Forced daffodil bulbs can be successfully planted outdoors and may bloom well for many years.

The care after flowering is important if attempting to save forced bulbs. After flowering, remove the spent flowers and place the plants in a sunny window. Water regularly until the foliage begins to yellow. At this point, gradually cut back on the watering until the foliage withers and dries. Cut off the dead foliage. Carefully remove the bulbs from the potting soil. Allow the bulbs to dry for one to two weeks, then store them in a cool, dry location until fall planting.