Winter Blooming Bulbs

In Blog, Feature, Flowers, Holiday decor, Holidays, Inspiration, Tonkadale Greenhouse, Winterby Megan Nichols

Brrr! November has arrived, the temperatures have taken a dramatic dip, and we’ve even had some falling snow! The weather gear is unpacked and we’re ready. Time for hot apple cider, raking leaves off the lawn, curling up by the fireplace, and looking ahead to the winter season and the new year.

This is also the perfect time to start thinking about planting and growing amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs. Add these pretty flowers to your winter decorating plan and enjoy weeks of fresh blooms.
Let’s get started – here is what you need to know:

How to Plant Amaryllis Bulbs

•             Choose a pot or vase that will accommodate your amaryllis bulb with about 1-2 inches of space between the bulb and the side of the pot. Fill pot halfway with potting mix or pebbles. (Tonkaterra or Espoma Potting Soil are great choices)

•             Place amaryllis bulb on top of soil or pebbles

•             Fill with potting soil or pebbles so about 1/3 of the bulb is still exposed on the top

•             Firm the soil or pebbles around the bulb and water-in

Planting in Water

•             Choose a watertight container that will accommodate your amaryllis bulb while leaving 1-2 inches of space between the bulb and the side of the pot. Fill container with pebbles until 1/3rd full

•             Trim off brown, spent roots and place amaryllis bulb on top of this layer

•             Hold the bulb in place and fill in with more pebbles, making sure the bulb is above the stones

•             Add water to 1” below the bulb

After Planting

•             Continue to water when potting mix is dry to the touch. If you planted your bulb in pebbles, keep water to a level 1” below the base of the bulb. Don’t let your bulb sit in water or it will rot and become stinky

•             Place in a sunny area to provide ample sunshine

•             Growth generally begins a few weeks after planting, expect to see blooms within 6-8 weeks

Growth and bloom time are dependent on light, water, and temperature, so it’s not an exact science and exact timing can be difficult to predict. If you need blooms for a specific date it’s best to buy a budded bulb closer to that time. The good news is the blooms last a long time and bulbs will shoot up multiple flower stalks over the course of a few weeks.
Be sure to trim off blooms when they are spent. This will stop the bulb from putting energy into creating a seed and instead allow it to focus energy on other buds and blooms and the bulb itself.
Flower stalks tend to curve towards the light (don’t we all), so rotate your pot as the stem grows to avoid a lopsided plant. The flowers are big and stunning, so stalks may become heavy and need some extra support. Use a bamboo stake or a hunk of red twig dogwood to support the weight of the blooms.
Add a soil cover to finish the look. We top-dress the soil with sheet moss and hemlock cones. It’s one of our signature looks, but you can use it and claim it as your own.

Save your amaryllis bulb for next year!

If you’re up for a plant-geeky experiment in horticulture, save the bulb for next season. After all the hard work of flowering the bulb is exhausted. As the last bloom fades, cut off the flower stalks to 3-5 inches above the bulb. DO NOT CUT OFF THE LEAVES at this time. They produce the food that will be stored in the bulb and help it replenish lost energy.
Keep your bulb in a sunny window and continue to water it, adding a water-soluble fertilizer at half strength.
When danger of frost has passed in the spring (about mid-May in our area), transfer your bulb outdoors. You can leave it in the existing pot or plant it in the ground. A part-sun location is best.
After growing all summer, the bulb needs to go dormant in order to bloom. There are two ways to do this, one is easier than the other.  

For the easy version, dig the amaryllis bulb after a frost (or bring indoors if still in a pot) and cut back the leaves. Let the bulb dry out. Store in a cool, dry, and dark place for 8-10 weeks. After this rest period, re-plant your bulb and enjoy all over again. This method will not produce blooms in time for the holidays.

In order to produce blooms for the holidays, the bulb must be forced into dormancy by bringing it inside in September (well before a frost), and placing it in a cool area (such as a root cellar). We recommend new bulbs for the winter holidays and enjoying the previous year’s bulbs through late winter as they naturally bud and bloom.

How to Plant Paperwhite Bulbs

If you are not going to plant your bulbs right away, keep them at room temperature in a paper bag.

Planting in soil

•             Fill container with 1/3rd potting soil.

•             Place bulbs on top of the soil, then layer with gravel, pebbles, marbles, or sand to keep the bulbs in place. You can go almost all the way to the top of the bulb.

•             Water the potting mix until damp, or fill jar with water just to the bottom of the bulb.

•             Add supports now, if using, so the roots are not disturbed later.

Planting in water

•             Choose any watertight container that will accommodate your paperwhites. Fill container 1/3rd full with pebbles, stones, gravel, or marbles. 

•             Hold the bulb in place and fill in with more pebbles, nestle bulbs into the stones.

•             Add water to stones barely touching bottom of the bulb.

After Planting:

•             Continue to water to just below the bulb if planted in pebbles, or when the soil becomes dry to the touch.

•             Keep in a sunny location.

•             Paperwhites bloom in 3-4 weeks.

Paperwhites will not rebloom the next year so don’t bother saving them.

General Indoor Bulb Care

Do not place bulbs near a heat source or draft. Do not fertilize during forcing/blooming.

Potted bulbs in bloom prefer cooler temperatures. Allow blooms to enjoy full sunlight during the day, but move them to a cooler location at night, if possible. Prolonged warm temperatures will shorten bloom time.

Grab some winter bulbs for your indoor garden. Blooming indoor flowers make the time between growing seasons just that much more enjoyable, and maybe even a little shorter.