There is something magical about forcing bulbs to grow and bloom indoors especially as the days get dark and the winter months become void of color. It’s time to plant winter blooming bulbs!
Two types of bulbs are typically planted indoors this time of year. Amaryllis and paperwhites. Amaryllis comes from the Greek word, amarysso which means to sparkle. And oh boy do they put on a show.
Paperwhites, or Narcissus papyraceus are closely related to Daffodils as they share the same genus. Unlike daffodils, they are not hardy in our zone and are grown indoors to our delight. Named for Narcissus, a handsome young nymph in Greek mythology, who pined at his reflection in a crystal-clear lake until he slipped to his death – a narcissist if you will. Pine away we will at the gorgeous show of color and intoxicating fragrance.
Let’s get planting!
Planting Amaryllis Bulbs
Planting in Soil or Pebbles
- Amaryllis like to be tight in their container, choose a container about 1”-2” larger than the diameter of the bulb you choose. Terra cotta pots are a great place to start! We love the granite colored terra cotta pots for their sleek and simple style! Make sure your container has a drainage hole for best results.
- Fill your container halfway with Espoma’s All Purpose Potting Mix or River Gravel.
- Place amaryllis bulb on top of soil or pebbles allowing for 1/3 of the bulb to be exposed in top.
- Fill in potting soil or pebbles, tamping down gently, making sure 1/3 of the bulb is still exposed.
- Firm the soil or pebbles around the bulb and water in.
- Water in thoroughly and allow to drain.
Planting in Water
- Choose a watertight container that will accommodate your amaryllis bulb with 1-2 inches of space between the bulb and the side of the pot.
- Fill container 1/3 full of pebbles.
- Place bulb on top of pebbles.
- Fill in with pebbles until secure.
- Add water to 1” below the bulb. Don’t let the bulb sit in water or it will rot and become stinky.
- Change out water weekly.
- Note: A clear bulb vase is also an option, no rocks or pebbles needed!
- Place in a sunny space.
- Continue watering when potting mix is dry to the touch or water is more than 1 inch below the base of the bulb if planted in water.
- Growth will begin a few weeks after planting.
- Expect to see blooms within 6-8 weeks of planting.
- The bigger the bulb, the more bloom stalks emerge.
Getting your amaryllis to bloom is not an exact science. Growth and bloom time are dependent on light, water, and temperature. The good news is the blooms are long lasting and bulbs will shoot up multiple flower stalks over the course of a few weeks.
Flower stalks tend to curve toward the light (don’t we all), so rotate your pot as the stem grows. Flower stalks may become heavy and need some extra support. Use a bamboo stake, or for a more festive feel, a handful of red twig dogwood to support the weight of the blooms.
At Tonkadale, we like to top-dress the soil with sheet moss and hemlock cones to add a finishing touch. It’s one of our signature looks, but you can use it as your own!
How to get your Amaryllis to Re-Bloom
If you’d like, you can save your amaryllis bulb to re-bloom next year. After the bulb has finished flowering, it is exhausted. As the last bloom fades, cut off the flower stalks at the base. Do not cut off the leaves at this time. The leaves will continue to collect the sun’s energy to produce and store food for next season’s blooms. Keep your bulb in a sunny window and continue to water it, add a water-soluble fertilizer at half strength to your watering routine at this time. We like Schultz’s All Purpose Plant Food.
In the spring, and when danger of frost has passed (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.
In the fall, after a good hard frost, dig up your bulb 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.
Planting Paperwhite Bulbs
If you don’t plan to plant your bulbs right away, store in a cool dry place.
Planting in Soil
- Fill your container 1/3 full of potting soil, river gravel, pebbles even marbles.
- Arrange bulbs in groups of 3-5 atop you chosen media. Sink them in, just the tips should show.
- Add additional soil etc. and snug them in tight.
- Water potting soil until damp or fill with water just to the bottom of the bulb.
- Add supports now such as a bamboo stake or piece of dogwood, if using, so the roots are not disturbed later.
Planting in Water
- Choose any watertight container that will accommodate your paperwhites. Fill container 1/3 full of pebbles, stone, gravel, or marbles.
- Hold the bulb in place and fill in with more pebbles. Nestle bulbs into the stones.
- Add water until in just barely touches the bottom of the bulb.
- Place in a sunny location.
- Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Continue to add clean water to just below the bulb if planted in pebbles.
- Paperwhites bloom in 3-4 weeks
- Do not place bulbs near a heat source or draft. Do not fertilize during forcing/blooming.
- There is no point in saving paperwhites for the next year, they will not rebloom.
If you are giving gifts that grow this holiday season, paperwhites and amaryllis top the list of go-tos. Easy, affordable, and long lasting. They grow and give for weeks to come.