06November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving is a time of family get-togethers with a giant meal. As we all know, the following Friday is Black Friday; the official start of the holiday shopping spree.

Some of you will give, as gifts, either Paperwhite bulbs or Amaryllis bulbs. The biggest question that many people have is “When do I start these bulbs if I want them to bloom for a particular date?” Let me tell you how to go about doing this timing to get those bulbs to bloom for a particular time.

Let’s start with the Paperwhite bulbs. You can buy these bulbs in a gift box that contains a flowerpot, soil and the bulbs. You can also buy the individual bulbs at many of the local garden centers. The individual bulbs can be planted in soil or they can be grown in a dish that holds water.

Over the years, I have found that growing the Paperwhites in soil can create a problem. Once the bulbs begin to root in the soil, the roots tend to push the bulb up and out of the soil. If you grow them in soil, you have to pack the soil firmly around the bulb and you possibly will have to re-press down the soil as the roots form. I prefer growing these bulbs in a dish that holds water. You will take the bulbs and add some washed stone into the bottom of the dish.

You will then arrange the bulbs in the dish and then fill around the bulbs with additional amounts of washed stone. You are adding enough stone so that just the neck of the bulb is above the stone. The stones are there to stabilize the bulbs. If you only add enough stone to partially cover the wide part of the bulb, the bulbs will eventually begin to tip over. The trick is to find a deep enough dish that will allow you to set the bulbs in the dish and to properly cover the bulbs with stones. At this point, you add enough water to the dish to cover the base of the bulbs with water. If you add a bit too much, it isn’t really a problem.

Place the dish in a sunny window. Growing the bulbs in the sun is the key to having shorter flower stems that won’t flop over. You need to keep the roots covered in water so be sure to check the water level on a daily basis. If you are growing the bulbs in soil, keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. In about 4 weeks time, the bulbs should be in flower. Once you know when you want to give the bulbs as gifts, allow 4 weeks from planting time to have the bulbs in bloom.

If you want to grow an Amaryllis, you can buy them as a boxed gift that contains the soil, a pot and the bulb. You can also buy individual bulbs that you can put into a flowerpot. You want to plant the Amaryllis bulb in a good quality potting soil. Most of the lightweight potting soils will work the best.

Just as you would do with the Paperwhites, you want only the neck of the bulb to be above the soil. Amaryllis are native to South Africa so they will grow best when they are grown at warm temperatures. If the soil is cool, it will take substantially longer for the roots to form. Once you have the Amaryllis bulbs planted up, water them with warm water and place in a sunny window. The sun will help to keep the soil warm.

I have found that you should take the pot away from the window at night and place it somewhere in the warmest part of the house at night. This prevents the soil from cooling down and slowing root growth. You should move the pot back into the sunny window during the day. Another way to keep those roots warm is to use an electric seed-starting mat. The mat will keep the soil warm and you won’t have to keep moving the pot away from the window. As is the case with the Paperwhites, sunshine will help to keep the flower stalk of the Amaryllis short. It can take 6 weeks or more for the Amaryllis to form its roots and to put out a flower stalk. You want to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. Use warm water.

Now you know how to pot up and grow these two types of holiday bulbs. However, there are a few tricks to make the bulbs grow better. Those tips will be next week’s column.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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