Gardening with Children: Forcing Holiday Bulbs

For fifteen years, I held monthly garden club meetings with elementary school children. This is the start of a recurring series on the topics we covered.

Paperwhite Bulb starting to grow. Shoots and roots visible. Shown against a ruler.
Photo by author. All Rights Reserved, 2009.

Do you want a great project to do with children for the holidays? If you start now, you’ll have some beautiful flowers for the New Year!

Flower Bulbs are unique plant structures. They contain everything the bulb needs for a full growing season. Bulbs such as paperwhites and amaryllis will grow and bloom without being placed in soil. They just need exposure to sunlight, warmth, and water. I’ll come back to how we planted flower bulbs easily with a classroom-sized group of students for them to take home for the holidays.

When I taught this unit in the after-school garden club we first covered what plant structures are contained in a flower bulb. I always started with information that would both inform and interest the children, before going on to an activity. They were like little sponges soaking up all the new facts and being amazed at all our natural world has to offer.

Diagram of a flower bulb, cut length wise to show plant structures.
Drawing and Photograph by Carol Labuzzetta, All Rights Reserved.

“The definition of a bulb is any plant that stores its complete life cycle in an underground storage structure.” Source: Bulb Basics University of Illinois Extenstion Office.

The purpose of the underground storage structure or bulb is to store food for the plant to use to grow. The food is a carbohydrate and kept in the fleshy layers or scales held within the bulb.

Children will be amazed to know we eat some flower bulbs. Onions are bulbs. One can take an onion from the grocery store, slice it from top to bottom and see all the bulb parts noted above on the drawing.

Garlic is another bulb that we eat. Although, since garlic is often used from a refrigerated jar or dried as a spice, young children might not be able to guess this food as a flower bulb. Again, you can show them. Show them the garlic bulb next to a flower bulb such as a daffodil, paperwhite, or tulip, or amaryllis. They’ll be able to see the…



Carol Labuzzetta, MS Natural Resources, MS Nursing

Environmental educator with a passion for teaching youth using the science of awe. Traveler, Photographer, Author, Wife, Mother. Top Writer & Boosted Writer x3