December Bulbs: A Midwinter Flower Feast
Flower bulbs are great, and that’s why it’s sometimes a bit of a downer that we don’t get to enjoy them all year long. Sure, you can keep buying bouquets but that will get very pricy very quickly. However, once people started to understand the lifecycle of flower bulbs, they soon found a way to “game the system” by imitating the effects winter and spring have on flower bulbs - a process called forcing.
But as the mention of the word winter already implies, part of this process is making sure bulbs go through a so called “chilling period” where they have to remain at very low temperatures for a period of up to 12 weeks. This would mean that if you wanted to fill your house with blooming flower bulbs during the holidays, you should have started the whole process months ago. But not to worry, because there are a few flower bulbs that don’t require any chilling time, and they happen to come in the perfect Christmas colors as well!
Let’s start with Paperwhites, the darlings of the flower forcing world. To have them blooming around Christmas, it’s best to start about a week before Thanksgiving. While Paperwhites can be forced in soil (remember to get a container that drains well), they are usually forced in water. For water forcing you want a closed container that is wider than it’s deep - a glass bowl would be perfect. Fill the bottom of the bowl with 1-2 inches of pretty stones, colorful marbles or plain gravel. Place the bulbs on top of this layer, with their pointy ends upwards. It’s OK to put them closely together, even touching. It will look great when they bloom and it also helps them support each other while they grow so they won’t topple over. Add some more stones/marbles/gravel until only the tips of the bulbs are sticking out. Now add water so that the level just reaches the bottoms of the bulbs. A tiny bit higher is no problem but if it’s too much they will rot.
Paperwhites don’t need absolute dark, but they will do best when you put your newly planted bowl or container in a dimly lit room where the temperature is around 65 F. Check every day to see whether the water level still reaches the bottom of the bulbs, and top up if needed.
Once you see roots developing, it’s time to get the Paperwhites out into bright light, ideally a sunny window. However, make sure the room they’re in is not too warm, as they will grow too long and fade very soon after blooming. If you like to keep your house toasty, you can prolong their life by keeping them in a cold room at night. If you follow these instructions carefully your paperwhites will bloom for about two weeks.
While Paperwhites only come in one color, Amaryllis comes in many hues. For a classic Christmas you can’t go wrong with the red of Multi Amaryllis Red Tiger, but if you want to change things up a bit you can opt for the exciting pinky-stripy hues of Jumbo Amaryllis Gervase or Jumbo Double Amaryllis Dancing Queen.
Since Amaryllis bulbs need about 6 to 8 weeks between potting and blooming, the optimum time to start the process is early to mid-November. The first thing you do is soak the bulbs for a few hours. This rehydrates the bulb and speeds up the growing process. Amaryllis bulbs might be big but they don’t like large pots, preferring tiny containers instead. Just make sure the sides of the bulb don’t touch the container. Using regular potting soil and a well-draining pot, place the bulb pointy end up on a bit of soil then cover up the rest, making sure to leave 1/3 of the bulb sticking out above the soil. Water well after planting.
Leave your potted Amaryllis bulb in a warm and dark place for a few weeks, and do not water it any further. You’ll know it’s time to move it to a warm, light-filled spot when the first shoot emerges. From this point onwards you should water the Amaryllis regularly again.
From first shoot to full bloom takes about 6 weeks. During this period, it’s important to rotate the pot ¼ every few days to prevent the stalk from getting bendy through growing towards the sun.
From Paperwhites to jumbo Amaryllis, DutchGrown is your one-stop shop for top-quality bulbs. If you order them from our website now, they’ll be with you at the perfect time to ensure a holiday season full of floral joy!