Hyacinths, Amaryllis and Paperwhites for Indoor Enjoyment
Hyacinths, Paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis are winter delights to enjoy in our homes when the Fraser Valley weather has changed our outdoor gardens into cold, bleak winterscapes. All of these indoor flower bulbs are specially prepared to bloom easily indoors. The trick, however, is to create the very best conditions for optimum flowering over the longest period.
Some of the simplest bulbs to bring to bloom indoors are fragrant, ‘prepared’ hyacinths. Available in colours of red, white, pink, blue and purple, they are generally larger-sized bulbs and produce the largest flowers. It works well to pot them up as singles or triples in 4” or 6” pots, especially if you use contemporary-styled decorator pots.
Many folks prefer to use either a hyacinth vase, which holds the bulbs on top, allowing the roots to filter down into the water, or a clear glass rose bowl with colourful rocks holding the bulbs up and in place while the roots feather down to the water below. However you choose to set them out, though, remember the display is half the artistic value. The newest trend out of Europe is to plant them on top of the soil so that the bulb is clearly visible—and it looks great!
Paperwhite narcissus are the most popular indoor bulbs, perhaps because they remind us that their cousins will be blooming in our outdoor gardens when spring returns. The display you create with these bulbs is where the real fun begins!
For one of the most beautiful paperwhite presentations, I love to use tall, cylindrical, clear vases with colourful stones on the bottom nesting the bulbs, and water below. Shallow, coloured glass containers work well, too, as long as you can see the lovely, white roots developing. Another great way to display them is planted in tall, thin, clay pots with green moss over the soil and red huckleberry twigs placed in the pot to accent and support the stems as they grow.
Growing Hyacinths & Paperwhites Indoors
The trick with hyacinth and paperwhite bulbs is to give them a cool start (5°C or 40°F) to ensure the slow development of good roots and sturdy stems and leaves. You’ll destroy the beauty of these flowers if you let them ‘rocket’ out of the bulbs. Start them near a cool window, outside on the patio if temperatures are above freezing until the roots have formed and the stems are just emerging with the flower head inside. With a cool start, they will be much more attractive and, as they grow, try to keep them as cool as you can for the longest enjoyment.
Amaryllis bulbs are the granddaddy of all indoor flower bulbs, and probably the most spectacular. It’s important to start with larger bulbs with heights about 28-29cm, to guarantee good flower stems. To double your enjoyment, select 30-34cm sized bulbs, and you should expect two blossom stems!
The colour range now available is quite remarkable, from reds, oranges, pinks and whites to bi-colours. If you want to try something a little different, quite a few amaryllis species types, with unique colours (like green), flower sizes and forms, are now available. The ‘Nymph’ series have fully double blossoms!
Growing Amaryllis Indoors
For the greatest success with amaryllis, plant the bulbs in a pot just large enough to accommodate the particular size that you have and no more. About 25-30% of the bulb should be above the soil. It’s always wise to use well-drained soil to prevent root rot from overwatering.
Amaryllis bulbs require a well-lit, cool location and temperatures of 22-24°C, and no feeding is necessary at this point in their growing cycle. Again, it is best to bring them along slowly in order to develop compact, sturdy stems.
Your amaryllis’ leaves may or may not open easily, but don’t be concerned—what’s important is that they have nice, strong stems. As they begin to flower, you can extend their bloom time by keeping them cool, around 12-18°C. Some growers even put them in floral coolers to hold them back.
It’s also important to keep your amaryllis just moist, and when each stem finishes blooming, cut off the stem but let the leaves grow. Then, keep them in a cool window until they can go in the garden next spring.
Growing gifts are definitely a trend these days, so try starting several bulbs now to be in bloom for the holiday season—they will be most appreciated! For that matter, you can start bulbs in sequence to enjoy continuous blooms from Christmas until Valentine’s Day, so you can have bright gifts to give all winter long!