The perfect way to brighten up a corner during the winter months, paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs seamlessly blend into holiday décor and, under the right conditions, can provide a breath of fresh air even into the new year. To help ensure that we properly nurture our plants—and prolong the flowers for as long as possible—we looked to the experts at Ivy Nursery in Charlottesville, Virginia, for instructions for forcing the popular bulbs indoors. Here are their recommendations.
Of all flowering bulbs, amaryllis is one of the easiest to coax to bloom, and with its dramatic flowers and many scent-free varieties, it’s also a consistent crowd-pleaser. Here are the keys to successfully forcing the bulbs:
Planting: First, select a container. Ivy Nursery recommends planting your bulb in a container that is two inches wider than the width of the bulb itself, and opting for a heavy clay pot or placing a thick layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot to prevent the heavy blossoms from tipping the pot over when they bloom. Plant your bulb in well-draining potting soil, leaving the top third exposed at prevent rot.
Light: Amaryllis prefer bright, indirect light, so avoid placing your pot directly in a sunbeam. Be sure to rotate the pot regularly in order to maintain a straight stalk as it grows, and if your plant seems top top-heavy, use stakes or small stones at the base for support.
Temperature: Before the bulb opens and takes on color, it will prefer temperatures between 65-70° Fahrenheit. Once the bud takes on color, your plant will retain the hue better if housed in a slightly cooler environment of 60-65°. Consider moving your plant to a cooler area of your home overnight to extend the life of your flowers.
Watering: For your new bulb, strive to keep your soil damp with periodic watering. Once new sprouts emerge, water the plant regularly, making sure the first two inches of soil are consistently damp. When the leaves start turning yellow, water your amaryllis only as needed until the foliage dies.
Aftercare: Sometimes, with proper care, you can coax your amaryllis to re-bloom. To do this, after the flowers fade, cut off the stalks and continue to water the bulb. Place it outdoors two weeks after the last cold front. In late summer, allow the plant to gradually dry and go dormant. Once the leaves die back, remove them and let the bulb rest in a cool place, around 50° Fahrenheit, for 10 weeks. You can then replant the bulb, water it, and place it in bright light to initiate another bloom cycle.
Paperwhite Narcissus are fragrant, white flowers that look lovely perched on a windowsill or on a side table in your living room. Of all forced bulbs, they are the easiest to bloom, and usually do so within 4 to 8 weeks of planting. They are unique in that they can grow in potted soil or in a shallow vessel in a bed of gravel or stones—here, we share both methods.
Planting in soil: When planting paperwhites in soil, it’s key to use well-drained potting soil and a three- to four-inch-deep pot. Plant the bulb with the pointed side up, with the point even or slightly below the rim of the pot, and about one inch showing above the soil. After planting, water thoroughly and then keep the plant moderately moist.
Planting in gravel or stones: Use a three- to four-inch-deep decorative container that does not have drainage holes. Place two to three inches of washed gravel or stones in the bottom of the container, then set the bulb on the gravel and mound enough gravel over or around the bulb to hold it in place. Add just enough water to touch the base of the bulb, and maintain this level of water throughout the growth of your paperwhite. Do not submerge the entire bulb in the water—only the roots coming out of the base of the bulb should be in the liquid.
Light: Paperwhites thrive in bright light from south or east facing windows.
Temperature: Paperwhite growing times will vary widely depending on the temperature in the room they are placed. Warmer home temperatures will encourage fast growth, while cooler temperatures will produce a slower growth. Once in bloom, and to encourage a longer bloom time, keep the plant in the coolest part of the house, with an optimal temperature of 60-65° Fahrenheit.
Watering: Paperwhites are a low-maintenance bulb, so simply follow watering instructions based on type of planting above.