Coaxing Tropical Treasures and Paper Whites for the Holidays
Writer / Nancy Craig
My great nieces and nephews and I are going to force bulbs to grow flowers to give as Christmas gifts. The easiest flowers to force are amaryllis and Narcissus paper whites. The amaryllis is a huge tropical trumpet shaped flower that comes in several colors. The paper whites are elegant, smaller shaped white flowers that cluster on top of long stems. Since it will take the bulbs six to 10 weeks to grow, we need to start them soon, at least a week or two before Thanksgiving.
Several of my children garden books show how to force the bulbs, but this one, “Great Gardens for Kids” by Clare Mathews, has a fun idea to use colorful aquatic gravel, glass beads and shapes. The kids can use their imagination and personalize their gifts by filling the containers with different items.
The twins, Lindsey and Lauren, will like the shiny bright colors or glittering beads and pebbles. The boys, Max and Eli, can use colored stones, rocks, marbles and plastic figures.
Since paper whites have a fragrance you either love or hate, you won’t want to give them to someone with a sensitive nose! Several websites list the steps to forcing or coaxing the bulbs. This one is for kids:
We are going to recycle my glass flower vases and clay pots as our containers. Then we will fill them with the gravel or rocks that the kids selected. The Narcissus bulbs are placed on top of the rocks with the pointed end or “nose” up, then we will fill with water so it barely touches the bulbs.
For the amaryllis bulb, we are going to use potting mix in a pot that is ½ to 1 inch larger than the bulb. Plant the bulb so that the “nose” sticks out of the potting mix.
Several stores and garden centers have kits for sale that include the bulbs, pot and soil. If you buy the bulbs not in a kit, look for a large amaryllis bulb. They will produce larger flowers.
You can also order bulbs through companies online like White Flower Farm (whiteflowerfarm.com) which also has a “Growing Guide Amaryllis.” This guide has more details covering all the steps to growing and caring for these beautiful flowers.
The Holland bulb companies have started an educational foundation called “Dig. Drop. Done.” Check out their Facebook page (facebook.com/DigDropDone) for current info on bulbs. Also, see this link for a colorful pot cover to make from painted sticks: bit.ly/holiday-patterns-amaryllis.
While we wait for the flowers to bloom, we can enjoy our colorful containers, and we will plant some for ourselves and some to share with our families over the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!