Paperwhites and Amaryllis for Christmas Gifts

December 15, 2013 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Two Christmas gifts advertised annually allow gardeners and non-gardeners alike to grow something pretty in the midst of winter.  Paperwhites and amaryllis are easy to grow regardless of the greenness of your thumbs.

        Paperwhites have delicate white, star-shaped flowers growing atop tall stems.  Long, flat, strappy leaves look like those of daffodils.  In fact, paperwhites are narcissus, the same as daffodils.  Paperwhites are sold in kits with everything you need for planting, which includes bulbs, potting soil and a pot.               

        To plant them, place two inches of soil in the pot.  Place the bulbs close together, pointy side up, atop the soil.  Fill soil in around the bulbs to hold them in place, leaving the tops exposed.  Add water to just below the base of the bulbs.
Set the container in a cool place, 50-60°F, away from direct sun.  Keep the water level just below the bulbs.  Once a week, gently tug on the bulbs to see if they have begun to root.  When you feel a little resistance, about three weeks after planting, move the pot to a sunny window.  Check water levels every day, but don’t let the bottoms of the bulbs sit in water or they will rot.  Soon stems will begin to grow and then the plants will bloom, filling the room with the unique paperwhite fragrance.

        Paperwhites grown indoors may need support with small stakes or hoops.  After blooming once, they will not rebloom and will not survive planting outdoors, so toss them in the compost.

        The other indoor flower bulb kit offered this time of year, the amaryllis, produces large white, pink, red or striped flowers.  Red is most prevalent at Christmas time.  Amaryllis bulbs are much larger than those of paperwhites and just a single bulb is planted in a pot.

        Plant the bulb up to its neck in quality potting soil, letting the top of the bulb show above the soil.  Take care not to damage the roots.  Press soil firmly around the bulb.

        Place the pot in a warm place, ideally 68-70°F, in direct light.  Water lightly until the stem appears.  As a bud and leaves emerge, water a bit more.  The stem will grow rapidly and then flowers will develop atop the stem.  Flowers last 7-10 weeks.

        Amaryllis can be made to rebloom the following year.  Cut wilted flowers from the stems and when stem withers, cut it off at the top of the bulb.  Water normally for 5-6 months.  Only leaves will grow during this period.  When leaves turn yellow in early fall, cut them off about two inches from the top of the bulb and pull the bulb from the soil.  Clean the bulb and place it in a cool, dark place such as the refrigerator crisper (with no apples in the drawer) for a minimum of six weeks.  Any time after six weeks, and about eight weeks before you would like them to bloom, start the planting process all over again.

 

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