Even in the depths of winter, one can still enjoy the beauty of springtime blooms – just force bulbs indoors.
Forcing is an old gardening technique that speeds up a bulb’s development by simulating the conditions of winter and spring – it’s a way of fooling Mother Nature and tricking the bulb to bloom before its time. Last month, I forced a collection of hyacinths, which are blooming in my home right now. My head gardener, Ryan McCallister, just planted amaryllis bulbs in soil, which will erupt with magnificent trumpet-shaped blooms later this season and last for several weeks.
Here are some photos, enjoy. Maybe this post will inspire you to grow some too.
Some of you may remember the large, gorgeous trumpet amaryllis blooms we forced last year. Of all flowering bulbs, amaryllis are the easiest to bring to bloom. This flower originated in South Africa and comes in many beautiful varieties.
The genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso, which means “to sparkle.” Amaryllis flowers range from four to 10 inches in size and can be either single or double in form.
While the most popular colors are red and white, flowers may also be pink, salmon, apricot, rose or deep burgundy, and some unique striped varieties.
Amaryllis bulbs are hardy and can be saved from year to year if planted in soil.
While dormant, the bulbs can be stored in a cool, dry, dark space – these bulbs are in good condition. Ryan timed it, so these bloom after all the colorful and fragrant hyacinths that are in my Winter House now are done.
First, Ryan inspects each bulb. It should be dry and clean without any blemishes or mold.
Then he cleans each bulb, removing any dried papery skins.
Ryan uses a potting mix that includes perlite and vermiculite for good drainage.
We also add some Scott’s Osmocote fertilizer – small, round coated prills filled with nutrients. You can find Osmocote on Martha.com.
Here, Ryan mixes it right into the soil – they are the yellow prills. These prills coat a core of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The resin-coating is made from linseed oil and as the plant’s root system takes-up nutrition from the soil, it also takes up the needed nutrients from the Osmocote.
Ryan chooses a selection of terracotta pots for all the amaryllis. One amaryllis bulb per six to seven inch pot will work nicely. Be sure there is at least an inch between the bulb sides and the rim of the vessel. Groups of three bulbs together can also be planted in a 10- to 12-inch container.
Each pot has a drainage hole at the bottom. This is critical, so adequate air is available for the roots.
As with all our pots, the drainage holes are covered with shards on the inside to help drainage and to keep the soil from leaking out. We save all the shards from broken clay pots for this purpose.
Ryan fills the pot with potting mix – this mix is very light and easy to scoop in a production line process.
Next, Ryan makes a hole deep enough for the plump bulb.
And positions the bulb neck deep, keeping the top one-third of the bulb sticking up above soil level. He is also very careful not to crush any of the roots as the bulb is planted.
Here is a closer look at the large bulb in the pot. A little more soil mix can be added if needed. Once positioned properly, Ryan gently packs the potting mix down to anchor the bulb.
The key to amaryllis forcing indoors is the temperature. The best, most rapid growth will occur if the container is in a room that is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
All the potted amaryllis bulbs are placed in a corner of the greenhouse that gets bright, indirect light. When forcing, be sure to keep the soil moist but not wet. Water only when the top inch or two of the potting mix is dry to the touch. Overwatering at the beginning of the growth cycle will cause the bulb to rot.
Ryan has a few more to pot up, but in six to eight weeks, we should have beautiful large colorful blooms atop 12- to 24-inch straight stems. I can’t wait.
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