The holiday season may seem a bit far off but now is the time to plant amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus so they will be ready for the holidays.
Amaryllis plants are one of the easiest indoor bulbs to grow. The plant grows from a large bulb that sprouts a tall stalk topped with large pink, white or red trumpet-shaped flowers. They should be available in the garden centers and online now.
Amaryllis bulbs need to be planted six to eight weeks ahead of the holidays to be ready to bloom by mid-December. The bulbs need to be planted in individual 6 to 8-inch heavy stone or clay pots. The plants tend to get top heavy when they are in bloom and the heavy pot will help to keep them upright. If you have room, you can plant multiple bulbs in a 12-inch pot. Plant the bulb pointed end up in good-quality potting mix that will allow excess moisture to drain away easily. Set the bulb so that two-thirds of it is below the soil, and gently tamp the soil in around it. Insert a sturdy, 12-inch stake next to the bulb to help support the heavy bloom when it appears. Water the plant well, and set in the bright indirect light of an east- or west-facing window. They will hold their blooms longer if they are kept out of direct sunlight.
Water sparingly until about 2 inches of new growth appears then begin watering regularly. To determine the right time, insert your index finger into the soil up to the first joint. If the soil is dry at that depth, water the plant. Remove excess water from the plant saucer so the bulb doesn’t stand in water.
After they finish blooming, cut the stalk to 1 inch above the bulb and treat like a houseplant until August. At that time, withhold water and let the bulb dry out completely. Store in a cool, dry and dark place for eight weeks. Bring it out and begin watering to start the cycle over again.
Paperwhite narcissus have dainty, fragrant white flowers that are a welcome reminder that there is life after winter. Set the bulbs on top of a 2-inch bed of gravel or glass beads in a nondraining container; fill a few pebbles or beads around the bulbs to steady them. Add water to just below the bulb bases; they will rot if they are in the water. Place them in a cool place in bright indirect light. It will take about three weeks for roots to grow at which point they should be moved into sunlight. Check often for water. They should bloom four to six weeks after planting. They can also be planted in soil with the tips of the bulbs above the soil. Once finished, discard them as they won’t grow again.
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