Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bulb Plans for Next Christmas

It was delightful to look at Swedish and other Scandinavian blogs through the Holidays. Their advent decorations include forced bulbs like Hyacinths and Amaryllis adorned with moss over the soil and tied with twine or raffia.

In 2011, I forced paperwhite narcissus and Amaryllis for Christmas bloom with some good success.

Paperwhite narcissus grown indoors grew long, lanky stems. I carefully removed the
stones they were growing in and planted them in the ground yesterday. The experts say
to toss forced bulbs. I always replant and they usually bloom again in a year or two.

Some of my paperwhites -- I bought too many but they were a good price -- grown indoors did not get enough light from a bright east window to have the shorter stems I'd hoped. Next year I'll have only one bowl full. In fact, I might pot them in soil. Paperwhites require no chill. Mid to late November they go into a bowl of stones and water in very bright light to bloom by Christmas. In a cool room, they'll last a couple of weeks or more.

By Christmas there are beautiful white blooms. Some people do not like the fragrance. I must have gotten some exceptional bulbs because mine smelled good but were not overpowering. I put aquarium charcoal in the water to keep the water from souring. Perhaps that helps with the musky scent as well.

Amaryllis goes into pots of soil mid-November as well. I potted three at the same time. They bloomed in sequence, all different. My choice for next year is Appleblossom, the only one that bloomed true to name of the bulbs I bought. I might order off to a reputable vendor instead of buying budget bulbs at a big box store. Maybe I'll take another chance. They did bloom well; just weren't the expected color on the box. I tried Amaryllis in stones and water last year. I do not recommend this method.

One of the Amaryllis has a big fat seed pod. One pod yields hundreds of papery seeds that takes some years to produce a blooming size bulb.

At right, the faded bloom of Appleblossom. The first stem did not form seeds pods because I cut off the fading blooms to let the second one develop well.

Amaryllis here will survive winter cold and bloom in the garden in spring. My bulbs go in the ground, usually skip a year and bloom again.

I failed to put Hyacinth bulbs in to chill in a timely fashion, so my Hyacinths will be Winter blossoms. Perhaps some will hold back to bloom at Valentine's day. Some are in water and stones like paperwhites, some are potted in soil. Next year I'll put the bulbs in chill mid-September and pot them up about December 1 in hopes of Christmas bloom.

These Hyacinths are not many days from blooming.

Here's my tentative list of winter bulbs for 2012:

1. Paperwhites for sentimental tradition, 6 or 8 bulbs in the brightest light until they bloom in hopes of non-flopping stems, potted at Thanksgiving or a little before.

2. At least 3 Amaryllis, including Appleblossom, potted when I find them in November.

3. All the Hyacinths I can afford.

4. Other bulbs: maybe some Muscari. Iris reticulata. Freesias.

5. Tulips, I get kind of crazy when I consider tulips. They require chill, long periods of chill. I have two pots of Queen of Night of which one has shown foliage. I'd like pots of white in 2012, I think. 

Tulips in the Deep South are a difficult project. Should I just buy
nursery-grown tulips when they come to Walmart in the spring?

Instructions for forcing bulbs are on numerous web sites like North Carolina State and Cornell Extension sites, bulb vendors and associations, and private blogs. Your bulb experiences will vary depending on where you grow, the provenance of your bulbs and other factors.


Secrets of a Seedscatterer         


  1. I haven't seen paperwhites in person, but they are beautiful most especially because there are many blooms in one stalk. I wonder if they will grow here in the tropics. My blogger friend from the US sent me 2 types of bulbs and they are growing now, hopefully in two years they will reward me with flowers. The Hemorocallis seeds she sent did not germinate maybe because it took a long time in the post office, but the bulbs are stronger. I love looking at hyacinths too, but haven't seen them in nurseries here. I bet your plans will grow into fascinating blooms.

  2. I have never forced a I found this retrospective very interesting. I don't have any good natural light from windows because of trees. I suspect my grow light stand would give good results though.

    The appleblossom is a gorgeous shade.

  3. Paperwhites are probably my favorite bulb. Mine all smell heavenly, and I watch them longingly all winter, waiting for the day I finally see them begin to bloom.
    Thanks for the info on forcing, I keep promising myself that I'll try it "next year", then always forget.

  4. NeilJean,

    Always look forward to you bulb forcing posts. Paperwhites just the same I enjoy seeing them. Today in the garden I found a blue crocus in bloom!! Will post it later today.

  5. I'm glad to see you showing the seed pods and talking about growing amaryllis from seed.

    Many people have no idea that they even produce seed... Everybody wants to cut their flowers down as soon as the flowers wilt a bit. They miss a huge amount of the action.

    I wonder if you'd mind posting on sowing these seed?
    I've grown them from seed, and I think that other people should as well.

  6. I'm growing amaryllis successfully for the first time this winter and it's really satisfying. But I've had to put their dish on a chair by the windows to make sure they get enough light. I have several pots of tulips on my patio. I was tired of their foliage suffocating other plants in the garden so I'm just growing them in pots from now on. Your bulbs look happy and cheerful, even if they're not blooming when you want them to.

  7. Thanks, everybody for your kind comments. I'm looking forward to next fall when it's time to start the process again and will try to announce so you'll be reminded.

    If the amaryllis pods produce viable seeds, I'll be planting some of those when they are ripe and will post about them, too.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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