September through October is the season to begin forcing your spring bulbs for holiday gift giving and other occasions. Tulips, narcissus and hyacinths, along with other spring blooming bulb favorites, can be forced into flower in the late winter and early spring. Not all bulbs can be forced, and most bulb packages will indicate if they can or not. Of those that can, most require pre-chilling in the refrigerator, which simulates fall weather.
Purchase your bulbs early for best choice and selection. Place them in a brown paper bag labeled with the date and variety. Place them in your fridge. An empty produce drawer is best. Ethylene gas from aging fruits and vegetables can inhibit your bulbs. If your drawer is not available use bottom shelf. Do not allow the bulbs to freeze. Chilling times may vary. Paperwhite narcissus come to the garden center pre-chilled and can be potted right away. For paperwhite narcissus you may use gravel, marbles, glass chips or soil mix. If not using soil, the water level should be just below the base of the bulb, not touching. You’ll need to check the water level occasionally. For other bulbs, planting in a freely-draining soil mix is probably better. See bulb package for planting depths.