Finding an extraordinary holiday centerpiece is so easy if you take the time to “force bulbs” such as the classic Amaryllis or Paperwhite. It takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks for them to go from bulb to bloom so a trip to a local nursery or garden center NOW is all it takes to locate the bulbs. A starter kit usually comes with a filler (special potting soil containing a medium with ample drainage, or glass beads.) and a container to plant them in. Or, you can save your bulbs from year to year as I do.
Amaryllis – Show stopper trumpet-looking flowers on tall sturdy stems with bright green shiny leaves. Blooms come in colors of red, white, pink, or a combination such as pink and white.
Paperwhites – According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was smitten with the reflection of himself in a pool of water. He stared at his image until the gods turned him into a flower. Blooms of Paperwhites come in white or cream colors and they have a heavenly fragrance that permeates the room they adorn.
How to Grow Them:
Amaryllis – The filler will be very dry so take a few minutes to soak it before planting the bulb. Place the bulbs with the root side down into the filler and be sure to gently press the filler around the bulb to anchor it in place. Place the bulbs in a bright sunny room. A window sill is a good choice.
Paperwhites – They will do best in a shallow bowl, dish, or a bulb vase.
Amaryllis – They will become top heavy, so as the plant grows tall it will require staking to keep the stem supporting the beautiful blooms from tipping.
Paperwhites – Take care not to let the bulbs dry out. Keep them watered. If they are not kept fully hydrated, they will not thrive.
Saving your bulbs from year to year:
After they are completely done blooming, cut off the stalks that the flowers bloomed on. Continue to care for the green leaves (the plant) until spring when they can be transplanted into the ground OR your container can be moved to a sunny location. Feed with an all-purpose fertilizer. Dig up in the fall, trim all of the foliage back to about ¼ inch from the bulb and allow to dry. Start the process over again.
Many a Christmas comes and goes and I wish I had remembered to mark my calendar to give myself the approximate 6 weeks to start these stunning plants.
Well, this year I am going to have an attractive centerpiece, and I hope you will too!
by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher
Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine.