Flower Bulb FAQs
This page should provide information to get you started and beyond. If you have further questions please don't hesitate to email us!
Susan @ restoration rose dot com
BASICS: HOW TO GROW PAPERWHITE NARCISSUS
1. Plant paperwhites in groups of 5 to 7 bulbs. Big clumps look more balanced than just two or three bulbs. Use pots (without drainage holes) that are 6 to 8” wide.
2. Extend the show by planting several batches of bulbs. You can do all the planting in one day and then store the pre-planted pots in a cool, dark place. When you are ready to start a new batch of bulbs, just bring out one of the pots and add water. We like potting them up for cuts as well as they make simple and cheerful bouquets during the winter.
3. You may grow paperwhites in water rather than soil. It works just as well, and weighing the bulbs down with stones helps keep the flowers from tipping over. Washed gravel works fine, as do marble chips, polished river stones, tumbled glass or even marbles. Only the bottom half of the bulb needs to be covered. The roots will anchor themselves by growing around and under the stones.
4. Set the bulbs in moist (not soggy) fluffy potting soil. OR place on gravel just above water line. The bulbs will seek water, but will rot if they sit in it. They must sit over it. After planting, add water to the container until it almost, but not quite touches the bottoms of the bulbs. When the roots sprout, they will reach down into the water.
5. Paperwhites get leggy for two reasons. Either they were grown in a room that’s too warm (above 65°F) or they didn’t get enough light. For stocky plants, grow the bulbs in a cool room (50-60°F) and make sure they get lots of bright, indirect light. Once you see buds, move the pot into your living area. Keep the bulbs away from hot sun and heat to extend the bloom time. If they do grow too tall, use a piece of twine or ribbon to “corral” them.
6. Researchers at Cornell University found they could keep paperwhites about 30% shorter than normal by watering them with a 4% to 6% alcohol solution. If you want to give it a try, you can use any “hard” liquor (not beer or wine). Mix 1 part 40% distilled spirit with 7 parts water to get a 5% solution (too much alcohol will damage the foliage). When the shoots are about 2" tall, pour off the water and replace it with the alcohol solution. Cornell Research is available HERE.
Once your paperwhites have finished blooming, you can snip off the spent flowers and continue enjoying the foliage. Eventually the bulbs can be tossed as they will not bloom again.
In warm climates (growing zones 8-11) paperwhites may be planted outdoors in fall for late winter flowers. Plant the bulbs about 6" deep and 4" apart. There are only a few areas in the country (S. California and parts of Texas) that have the hot, dry weather conditions that paperwhites require for long-term outdoor success. In other areas where paperwhites are hardy (zones 8-11), the bulbs are treated as annuals.
BASICS: HOW TO GROW AMARYLLIS
From The University of Iowa Horticulture Extension
When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot which is approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb. The container may be clay, ceramic or plastic, but should have drainage holes in the bottom. Plant the bulb in good, well-drained potting mix. Place a small amount of potting mix in the bottom of the pot. Center the bulb in the middle of the pot. Then add additional potting mix, firming it around the roots and bulb. When finished potting, the upper one-half of the bulb should remain above the soil surface. Also, leave about one inch between the soil surface and the pot’s rim. Then water well and place in a warm (70 to 75°F) location.
After the initial watering, allow the potting mix to dry somewhat before watering again. Keep the mix moist, but not wet. When growth appears, move the plant to a sunny window and apply a water soluble fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks. During flower stalk elongation, turn the pot each day to keep the flower stalk growing straight. Flower stalks that lean badly will need to be staked.
Flowering usually occurs about 6 to 8 weeks after potting. When the amaryllis begins to bloom, move the plant to a slightly cooler (65 to 70°F) location that doesn’t receive direct sun to prolong the life of the flowers.
SAVING YOUR AMARYLLIS FOR NEXT SEASON
Some individuals discard the amaryllis after flowering. However, it is possible to save the amaryllis and force it to flower on an annual basis. The key to successful re-flowering is proper care.
After the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalk with a sharp knife. Make the cut 1 to 2 inches above the bulb. Don’t damage the foliage. In order for the bulb to bloom again next season, the plant must replenish its depleted food reserves. The strap-like leaves manufacture food for the plant. Place the plant in a sunny window and water when the soil surface is nearly dry. Fertilize every two to four 4 weeks with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
The amaryllis can be moved outdoors in late May. Harden or acclimate the plant to the outdoors by initially placing it in a shady, protected area. After two or three days, gradually expose the amaryllis to longer periods of direct sun. Once hardened, select a site in partial to full sun. Dig a hole and set the pot into the ground. Outdoors, continue to water the plant during dry weather. Also, continue to fertilize the amaryllis once or twice a month through July. Bring the plant indoors in mid-September. Plants left indoors should be kept in a sunny window.
In order to bloom, amaryllis bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of eight to 10 weeks. This can be accomplished by inducing the plant to go dormant and then storing the dormant bulb at a temperature of 50 to 55 F. To induce dormancy, place the plant in a cool, semi-dark location in late September and withhold water. Cut off the foliage when the leaves turn brown. Then place the dormant bulb in a 50 to 55 F location for at least eight to 10 weeks. After the cool requirement has been met, start the growth cycle again by watering the bulb and placing it in a well-lit, 70 to 75 F location. Keep the potting soil moist, but not wet, until growth appears. The other option is to place the plant in a well-lit, 50 to 55 F location in fall.
Maintain the amaryllis as a green plant from fall to mid-winter. After the cool requirement has been met, move the plant to a warmer (70 to 75 F) location.
BULB ORDER OF BLOOM
(Also see Chill Chart below)
South American Amaryllis and Paperwhites do not require chill and will bloom within 4-6 weeks of starting from dormant bulbs. Dutch Amaryllis do not require chill but take 6-12 weeks to get started from dormant bulbs. Crocus and Reticulated iris will bloom in January for most folks, depending upon when chill begins. The earliest Daffodils are followed by Muscari, Hyacinth, later blooming Daffodils and Tulips. On each bulb variety page you will find its class and you may refer to the information below to chill length/bloom time. Blooms will usually arrive 2-4 weeks after chilling period when pots have been exposed to sun.
CHILL CHART—BELOW 45 DEGREES )you may chill for longer but do not chill for less.)
Crocus (Spring-blooming Crocus), 8-10 weeks
Galanthus (Snowdrops), 10-12 weeks
Hyacinthus (Hyacinth), 12-14 weeks
Dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata and other spring-blooming bulbous species), 10-12 weeks
Leucojum (Summer Snowflake), 8-10 weeks
Muscari (Grape Hyacinth, to keep the leaves shorter, store cool and dry for 6-8 weeks, then give 2 weeks of cool rooting time)
Trumpet Daffodils, 14-16 weeks
Large-Cupped Daffodils, 15-17 weeks
Small-Cupped Daffodils, 16-18 weeks
Double-Flowered Daffodils, 16-18 weeks
Split-Corona Daffodils, 14-16 weeks
Narcissus (Triandrus), 16-17 weeks
Narcissus (Cyclamineus), 14-15 weeks
Narcissus (Jonquilla), 15-16 weeks
Narcissus (Tazetta), 14-15 weeks
Narcissus (Miniature), 14-16 weeks
Tulipa (Tulip), 14-16 weeks
THE BASICS OF COAXING
Pot the bulbs in any well-draining potting mix, water them, and set them aside in a cool but not freezing dark spot for the required minimum time (see chart above), then bring them into warmth and light in the house. The bulbs think spring has arrived and quickly sprout and flower. It’s that easy — the bulbs do most of the work.
POTTING in soil: To pot the bulbs, begin by placing potting mix in a large tub or bucket. Slowly add water and stir until the mix is moist but not soggy. Should feel a bit like moist sand, not soggy mud. If you squeeze a handful and water results it is too wet, add more dry mix. Add the moistened mix to your chosen container until the pot is about three-quarters full. Using craft sticks or whatever you would like, write the variety down and the day you charted chilling. You could also write the final chill date down as well. Place that in the pot. Set the bulbs root-side down on top of the mix. Despite common wisdom, the bulbs MAY touch each other. Pack them in. More bulbs more bloom. Then add more mix. Cover small bulbs completely with a ½” layer of mix; cover larger bulbs up to their necks, leaving the tips of the bulbs exposed. Water thoroughly after potting.To force cold-hardy bulbs into bloom, you must first encourage them to produce new roots by keeping them cool and moist for a period of time that varies by type of bulb (see Chill Chart above). The ideal rooting temperature also varies, but most bulbs flower best if stored at 40-45 degrees. The easiest way to chill bulbs is to put them outdoors, chill bulbs in a cold frame if you’re lucky enough to have one; a cold basement; or an unheated garage (provided the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing). If you choose to chill bulbs in the refrigerator, be certain there is no fresh fruit stored inside. Please note that moisture is as important as temperature in the successful chilling of bulbs. Check the pots every few weeks and water thoroughly ONLY when the surface is dry to the touch.
Toward the end of the recommended rooting time, begin checking the pots for signs that the bulbs have rooted. If you see fleshy white roots poking through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pots, the bulbs are usually ready to bloom. If you don’t see roots, give the bulbs more time in cold storage. Don’t judge readiness by the appearance of shoots from the tops of the bulbs; without roots, the bulbs won’t flower properly.
DRY CHILLING: You can also coax your bulbs by giving them the proper amount of chill time WITHOUT SOIL. This allows you to chill more bulbs in a much smaller space. This is how I chilled bulbs until I created a chiller room.
Likely you will be chilling in a refrigerator or basement. Remember to defend against mice and other critters if they can get to the bulbs, they surely will. We dry chill our bulbs in paper bags with -- be sure to note bulb name etc on bag. We roll down the tops to eliminate air and snug the bulbs together. Do not chill in any type of plastic. This will cause the bulbs to rot. Bulbs need air while they are chilling. You could use a mesh shopping bag or similar for your bulbs. After the recommended chill time then pot up your bulbs as directed above and get them into the sun. If you are creating a mixed bulb garden you will need to chill ALL varieties for the same amount of time as the LONGEST variety so that they will all get proper bulb. (REFER TO CHILLING CHART)
COAXING INTO BLOOM: When the bulbs have rooted, bring the pots out of cold storage and set them in a bright window in a cool room (one where the temperature stays below 65°F). Bright light will help keep the leaves and flower stems compact; in weak light, they tend to flop. You’re likely to find that the bulbs have produced white shoots during cold storage. Sunlight quickly turns them green. Keep a close eye on the moisture needs of the bulbs as they send up leaves and flower stems. Initially, the bulbs probably won’t need to be watered more frequently than once a week (if that much), but by the time they bloom, you may need to water them every day or two. Most bulbs will bloom 2-5 weeks after they come out of the cold. Once your bulbs have set buds you may move them to a cooler and more shady spot. Length of bloom varies with the type of bulb keeping them cool keeps them happier. Shifting the pots out of direct sunlight and moving them to a cool room at night helps prolong bloom.
LAYERING BULBS FOR MULTI VARIETY BULB GARDEN
www.gardenia.net is one of the most wonderful resources for gardeners.
Their images of layered gardens were super helpful to me when I began. The link below has wonderful instructions and information for planting your own bulb garden. Truly, you are limited only by your imagination.
Here is a wonderful informative video:
Claus Dalby, my horticultural crush, shows you how the pro's do it. This is inspirational/aspirational only. This is 20 years of experience. Don't compare yourself to him and feel lousy about it. This is meant to be fun, fun, fun. This man is the Michelangelo of bulbs.
For a four to eight week flowering extravaganza, choose blooms with consecutive flowering periods. IE: add bulbs from each category such as:
Crocus or Iris, Muscari, Hyacinth, Daffodil, Tulip for an entire season display.
Or you can choose Crocus and Muscari in one pot, Hyacinth and Daffodils in another, etc.
They can be planted in practically the same spot because they will be planted in different layers of soil (thus the technique is known as the “lasagna method”)
Those that bloom last are planted at the deepest level and those that bloom first are planted closest to the surface. There will likely be overlapping growth and bloom times.
This works for a garden bed just as well as a pot. Remember to plant your shorter bulbs closer to the rim (like the front of the garden bed) and the taller closer to the center (and back of the garden bed). Somehow Mother Nature has a way of making it beautiful regardless.
When brought indoors it is sheer delight to have your own colorful, fragrant garden blooming in late January through February.
POTTING MEGA CONTAINERS FOR OUTDOORS