Bulb planting: planning for Christmas

LittleGardenBeauty
Published on October 25th 2018
5
I don't know about you but with this long warm autumn, the last thing on my mind has been planning for Christmas. But, time is running out if you want to have fresh flowers for the holidays and it's the perfect activity to get the little ones involved in over this half term.
This whole article started when Caroline shared a post about a wax coated Amaryllis she'd been given. It's not something I'd ever seen before, so I went to investigate.

Amaryllis

The bulbs are heat treated (to make them think they've been through winter) then a metal spring is attached to the base of the bulb to help it stand up before it's coated in decorative wax.
  • Bulbs contain all the feed the plant needs to flower with no need for additional water so they can be placed anywhere.
  • They produce blooms 4 to 6 weeks after they've been placed in a warm (+21C) position with indirect sunlight.
I've yet to find these for sale in my local garden centres but they are available online and would make fantastic gifts, the only downside they are a one bloom gift. The feeder roots have been removed so they can't be planted out.
However prepared Amaryllis bulbs are available and the bigger the bulb, the greater the number of flowering stems produced. So, if you want to make a real impact, splash out on the largest you can afford.
Planting up is really easy you can use either:
  • Glass vases which have the narrow neck that holds the bulb above the water reservoir
  • Containers without drainage holes, fill the bottom with stones.
There are so many ways to decorate them, using decorative glass beads, sea shells, gravel or soil. You could even get the munchkins to decorate the glass, a possible gift idea for grandparents.
Do whatever fits in with your Christmas theme, or if like me, whatever you've got lurking in the crafting box or potting shed.
Tip: When you plant always make sure the base of the bulb is just above the water level to prevent the bulb from rotting, the roots will soon find their way down. Refresh the water when the level gets too low.

Hyacinths

What better for a container by the front door than Hyacinths, their scent is stunning and a firm favourite. Again you need to buy the prepared bulbs and different cultivars have different timings for flower production.
We've missed the planting deadline for Christmas flowering cultivars, that was back in September. But, if we get a wiggle on this week and use varieties such as 'Anna Marie' we should have blooms just opening ready to be displayed or gifted on the big day.
  • To plant the bulbs use either bulb fibre, soil-based or soil-less compost which is moisture retentive but free draining.
  • Place a layer into the base of the pot then position the bulbs making sure they don't touch one another.
  • Fill around the bulbs until the growing medium is just below the tip of the bulbs and about 1cm (1/2") below the rim of the container.
  • You then need to place the container in a cool dark place (around 9C/48F), this encourages the development of the roots. This can be in a cellar or wrapped in a black polythene bag in the corner of the garage/shed.
  • Check regularly making sure they don't dry out.
  • After 8 weeks bring the containers inside. Place in cool conditions to allow the leaves to develop for a week then move to a sunnier warm position and the blooms should appear 1.5 - 2weeks later.
Tip: You might want to wear gloves as some people find the bulbs irritant.

Paperwhites

These beautiful nodding daffodils bring a touch of class to any setting and can be planted up in almost any type of container. Unlike Hyacinths and Amaryllis they don't need to be prepared by heat treatment just exposed to water, look for Narcissus bulbs being sold as pot plants indoors.
  • Like Hyacinths, you can plant up using bulb fibre, compost or soil with several bulbs per container but with the tips of the bulbs just beneath the surface of the growing medium.
  • Or like Amaryllis, you can grow in glass vases or bowls filled with decorative gravel or glass beads. Nestle the bulbs halfway down into the beads then fill the bowl to just beneath the bottom of the bulbs.
  • Place on a warm, sunny windowsill but be ready to slide a cane in amongst the foliage to support the flower stems as they can get lanky. Stems can also be loosely tied together with ribbon or raffia to hold each other up and prevent flopping.
They should be flowering within 2 weeks so remember to plant several containers at different times throughout November and December.
I have also read about filling the vase/container with an alcohol solution (7 parts water to 1 part 70% alcohol) which helps to produce sturdier stems but this is something I've yet to try so can't comment.
I'm going to give it a go with Paperwhites and Amaryllis to see if it does limit the height.

Aftercare

The beauty of these bulbs is that they are a gift that keeps giving. Once the flowers have finished and the foliage has died back, the Hyacinths and Amaryllis can be planted out to adjust to their normal flowering times. The Paperwhites are not hardy so store the bulbs in a paper bag ready to re-use next Christmas.
Tip: All bulbs preferred to not be near drafts or artificial heat, so avoid standing them too close to radiators or frequently opened windows.

How are your holiday plans coming along?

My one hope is that no friends or family have read this, as my plans for this half term are to go container hunting & create unique (and child decorated) gifts but only on the cold grey days.
Thank you Caroline for sharing you're fascinating post!

Please share your experiences of growing bulbs readying for mid-winter colour!

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