Saturday, December 15, 2012

Forcing Bulbs Indoors for Holiday Color

I've enjoyed the gift of color by forcing Amaryllis bulbs to bloom indoors prior to Christmas and throughout the winter season for the last several years. This project can be fun for children, as well as, any adult who loves a little dirt under their nails.

This bulbous, trumpet flower was cultivated in the eighteenth century and it's origin and genus disputed from 1938 until 1987 when the "International Botanical Congress" declared Amaryllis belladonna, as the Hippeastrum genus originating from South Africa. The other contender was found in South America. Who knew the Amaryllis could have waged such a political plant cliff, similar to the financial cliff in our Congress today!

Due to the controversy and confusion, Carl Linngleus gave all these plants the common name "Amaryllis" in 1753. Making this "family" or "genus" as the bulb found in most kits sold for Christmas gifts and forced blooming during winter months.

I found this variety on sale at Tractor Supply, as you can see above for $4.99. Most cost $10 to $12 dollars and that's still a good price for the beauty, enjoyment and color lasting throughout most of the winter months. Although outdoor Amaryllis, naturally range in pinks and purples, these hybrid bulbs packaged for forced blooms may be bought in pink, salmon, white, apricot, rose and of course, deep reds, like scarlet. Their flowers can be found in single or double blooms with solids or striped colors of four to six circular patterns.

Kits will include the bulb, a rich, loamy soil and a pot for easy planting, basic for forcing any bulb. Plant it with the bottom covered in dirt (1/4 to 1/3 inch) most pots should be two or three inches larger in diameter than the bulb and allow adequate drainage to prevent rotting in standing water. I don't like this cheap pot, but it does OK for this illustration.

After potting your Amaryllis, place it in a window with good, but not direct sunlight and water only when the dirt on top feels dry. Never allow water to stand in the container, as it will rot the bulb.

Believe it or not, these bulbs can be planted outdoors in our climate, after the danger of frost. Keep the flower stalk on the plant until it dies and turns yellow, acclimate the bulb in shade or indirect sunlight. This resting period allows the nutrition of the flower stem to energize the bulb for next year's blooming. Amazingly, a little bright sun, after resting helps the bulb transition to outdoor living.

Mr. Basil, our garden cat at first seemed interested in this earthy project.

It wasn't long before he found a sunny spot in the grass to chill out.

I'll keep you udated on the "Red Lion" variety of this year's Amaryllis blooming on my windowsills with photos and hope you share yours with me!

Most any bulbs you favor can be forced to bloom during winter months and transplanted to your yard in spring. So, no doubt that's a for any gardener.

Until next time....

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

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