Flowering holiday bulbs create an extra special touch to your holiday decor and make wonderful gifts. Paperwhites and Amaryllis are two of the most popular bulbs for indoor forcing. Often sold in kits, be careful to inspect the bulbs first. Select plump, firm bulbs when choosing them individually at a nursery or garden center. I often buy bulbs for winter forcing through ColorBlends.com.
Expect to pay about a dollar apiece for good-sized Paperwhites and 8 to 10 dollars (and up) for quality Amaryllis. Although pricier, Amaryllis planted in potting soil can be kept as houseplants and summered outside. Then, let them dry out in early fall and reuse the bulbs year after year! Paperwhites will not rebloom for 2 or 3 years and are generally composted after their bloom time.
Small daffodils, grape hyacinths (muscari), tulips, hyacinths and other bulbs can also be forced indoors. But, unless you buy pre-chilled bulbs, know that they must prechill for 8 to 10 weeks in a cool place that does not freeze (refrigerator or unheated garage). This fools these spring bulbs into thinking they have had a winter!
Paperwhites take approximately 5 to 6 weeks from planting until bloom. Plant a few every two weeks for continuous fragrant flowers all winter long. Store unused bulbs in a cool place until planting. They have a tendency to get tall and floppy. To avoid this, after the plant grows a few inches high, mix a solution of 1 part distilled alcohol (vodka, gin, tequila or rubbing alcohol) to 7 parts water. Giving your paperwhites this “cocktail” will stunt their growth and keep them more manageable.
Do not fertilize bulbs that are being forced. They can be “planted” in decorative containers with sand, shells, glass pieces, marbles, stones, and gravel, as well as potting soil. Water up to the base of the bulb and keep in a sunlit spot. Amaryllis require about 10 to 12 weeks of growth until blooming. Keep these times in mind if you want to have blooms for the holidays!
Have fun choosing containers and planting mediums, and don’t forget to dress up your pots! Holiday accents will keep the bulb planting attractive until it flowers. See examples in the pictures below to help you plan for your own flowering holiday bulbs.
There’s more than one way to plant paperwhite narcissus bulbs! Just look at some of the wonderful variations these garden blogger friends of mine came up with!
Here are more Fairfield Home and Garden posts on forcing bulbs!