Here at the farmhouse, I have enjoyed forcing bulbs for many years. Today, I will show you how to force amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs to bloom around Christmas time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term ‘forcing’, it is the process of coaxing a bulb to bloom out of season. Unlike a lot of other bulbs, amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs do not need a chilling period. Amaryllis usually take about 6-8 weeks to bloom after planting and paperwhites flower after 4-6 weeks.
Here are a few tips to help you force amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs this holiday season:
- Purchase large and healthy bulbs. They should feel firm to the touch, and show no sign of mold or decay.
- Decide whether you would like to force your bulbs in soil or water. I usually force amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs in soil but the water method works just as well. To force your bulbs in water, simply fill a container with rocks and add water until it reaches the bottom of the bulbs. Do not submerge your bulbs or they will rot! To force your bulbs in soil, choose a pot with a drainage hole and fill it with potting soil. If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, create a drainage layer by filling the bottom with rocks or pebbles before adding potting soil.
- Plant the bulbs (pointy side up) and anchor them firmly in the soil leaving one third of the bulbs above the soil line.
- Water regularly and rotate your pot every few days to keep the stalks straight and prevent them from leaning towards the light.
- Paperwhites have a tendency to flop over so here is a little tip to grow shorter paperwhites. Wait until the shoots are 1 to 2 inches above the bulbs and add alcohol to the water. Yes, you read this right! Alcohol diluted with water will stunt their growth to 1/3 shorter than normal but will not affect the size or amount of flowers. Mix 7 parts water to 1 part hard liquor (40% distilled spirit) such as gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, or tequila. Keep watering your paperwhites with this special cocktail and voilà! Shorter paperwhites that won’t flop over!
- Optional: Add pine cones and greenery for a festive touch!
Greetings from Kingsbury Brook Farm!