Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: Plant now for indoor holiday blooms

Early November is a good time to plant indoor bulbs to bring color back for the holidays and into the drab winter.  (Shutterstock)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

The fall chores are wrapping up and the bright colors are fading. Soon our outdoor landscape will take on its winter drabness and we will be looking for color anywhere we can find it.

But take heart. With a little planning, it is possible to grow some bulbs indoors to brighten the house.

Bulbs like daffodils, hyacinths, amaryllis and tulips planted now will provide color through the early winter, the darkest part of the year. For the most part, these bulbs are easy to group if you pay attention to their basic needs.

Amaryllis are a tropical bulb native to South and Central America. The large bulbs produce equally large, tall trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of red, pink and white. They have become a holiday tradition in many households because of their bright color.

Depending on the variety, it takes about six to 12 weeks for the bulbs to grow leaves and be ready to flower. This means the early blooming ones will need to be planted around the end of October or early November. The later ones will bring color to midwinter. Bulbs can be purchased at local nurseries or online and come as loose bulbs or in pots. Size matters as larger bulbs will produce bigger and more blooms.

If your amaryllis doesn’t come with its own pot, use a standard heavy flower pot that will give the bulb an inch of room at its shoulders. Put 2 inches of potting soil in the pot and place the bulb so its shoulders are slightly above the soil level. Place the pot in a bright, sunny spot. If possible, use a heat mat under the plant to provide bottom heat. Water sparingly until leaves have sprouted, then water when the soil is dry. Remove fading flowers as they finish. Leave the leaves on the plant until they die back and then store the bulb in its pot until the next fall. Amaryllis bulbs can last several years when properly cared for.

Daffodils (narcissus), hyacinths and tulips are also easy to grow. Be sure to order precooled bulbs. Many bulbs need a couple of months of chilling over the winter to grow properly, Growers will prechill bulbs intended for growing indoors.

Chilled bulbs often come planted in pots. If you find loose ones, use a large flat pot with drainage filled with 2 inches of potting mix. Pack the bulbs shoulder to shoulder and top with more potting mix to a depth of two times the height of the bulb. Water the pots and place them in indirect sunlight and cool temperatures for a couple of weeks.

When the leaves are 3 to 5 inches tall, move the pots to a warmer spot near a bright, sunny window. Once the flowers have faded, leave the foliage in place to feed the bulb. After the foliage has faded, the bulbs can be removed from their pots and planted outdoors in the garden the next fall.