|Not this again!|
Since we can’t, it seemed like a good time to plant some indoor flower bulbs to get me through the cold, dark months.
My bulb choices this winter are paperwhite narcissi (Narcissus papyraceus) and amaryllis (Hippeastrum species).
|Paperwhites have a lovely scent-photo by Ceasol|
|You can't beat amaryllis for big beautiful flowers in the dead of winter-photo by pizzo disevo|
A bulb is a storage mechanism that allows the plant to get through dry periods. It’s made up of embryonic leaf, stem and flower tissues surrounded by fleshy scales that contain food stored up during the plant’s growing period. An onion is a bulb too; the rings of flesh are its storage scales.
Once you plant them and they start taking up water, bulbs send out roots from their base plates, and stems start to extend upward. They’re going to do it whether you help them or not. In fact, unplanted bulbs start putting up flower stems if I leave them in the basement for too long before planting them.
I prefer to pot the paperwhite bulbs in homemade potting mix. I make the mix by combining coir (coconut husk fibers) with compost from my compost piles to avoid using peat-based medium, which is not a sustainable product. I find that paperwhites grown in the potting mix stay more upright than bulbs grown in bowls of pebbles.
|Once covered with potting mix, the bulbs can be watered and set in a cool, dark basement spot for a week or so until they start sending up new growth|
Amaryllis bulbs are gigantic. The one I planted weighed more than 15 ounces, with a diameter of 5 inches.
I usually get four flowers on each stalk. A second stalk often emerges a few days after the first. I nestled this bulb in a pot just wider and taller than itself. Only a little potting mix was needed to fill in the remaining space.
|I set the amaryllis pot next to a radiator to help it start growing. I'll move it to a cooler windowsill once the flower stalk starts extending|
Anyone who has a window with a bit of sun can get flowers from these bulbs. The harder challenge is to get them to flower again the following year. The paperwhites originate in the Mediterranean. They need a warm climate and won’t survive in New England gardens. For us, they’re annuals.
It’s tempting to try to get amaryllis to rebloom. In their natural habitat in South Africa or South America, after flowering the bulbs would soak up sun and soil nutrients for a couple of months before dropping back into dormancy, waiting for the signal to flower again. It takes a lot of sun to pack in the same amount of stored energy in our area. Here are some instructions from the National Arboretum.
My experience has been that with lots of trouble, I can get amaryllis leaves to grow the next year and, rarely, one small flower cluster. It’s not worth it. I pay the $15 for the big bulbs and throw them on the compost pile when they’re finished blooming. All good things have to end—and winter does too.