Favorite gifts for the holidays, amaryllis (Hippeastrum) and paperwhites (Narcissus) are fairly simple to plant and enjoy now through February. These tropical bulbs grow indoors and they do not need to be chilled. By planting in a small, barely big enough, bowl or dish and adding water, they rapidly form roots, bud and flower! Paperwhites are especially speedy.
Pot up amaryllis bulbs in a heavy pot with fast-draining soil mix or stones. Be careful not to plant the bulb too deeply. At least one third of the bulb should be visible above the soil surface. Don’t use a pot that is any more than two times the diameter of the bulb. Water your amaryllis thoroughly right after you pot it and allow the soil surface to dry a bit before you water again.
Place in a warm, sunny spot to stimulate root growth. If conditions are too dim, the flower stalk will grow extra long and possibly break. Wait until the first flower has opened to move the plant to a location with subdued light and cool temperatures to preserve the flower as long as possible.
Flower stems with buds at the top typically appear before leaves from an amaryllis. Stems may grow up to 24″ before flowering. To keep the stem straight, turn the pot 1/4 turn every couple days because stems will lean toward the brightest light source.
For paperwhites, set the bulb in a shallow dish of stones so the stones reach the top of the bulb’s shoulder (its widest point). Fill with water to about halfway up the bulb.
A complaint for some about paperwhites is that they tend to get too tall and fall over. A trick we’ve learned is to ‘pickle’ them with a small amount of alcohol in the water. They grow about 1/3 shorter but normal in every other way. Here’s the link to instructions from Cornell University.
Your Garden in the Fall
Still-warm soil and relatively cool air temperatures promote healthy root growth in plants that return each year. Check out our Fall gardening tips.Fall Articles