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Growing Bulbs Indoors for Winter Bloom
  By Kevin Harwood  Contributing Columnist, Dallywater's Farm

There are any number of bulbs that can be forced into bloom during the winter months by artificially creating springtime conditions indoors - hence the term, ”forcing.” Three of the most common bulbs, and easiest to grow, are Paperwhite Narcissus, Hyacinths, and Amaryllis. They are readily available from most garden centers, mail order, and even discount stores.

These are actually a type of narcissus, like daffodils, that have been specially pre-chilled by nurserymen for forcing indoors. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they are also incredibly fragrant.
Most often, paperwhites are forced in a bowl filled with pebbles, glass rocks, or even decorative shells. Plant your bulbs near the end of November or early December. They look and perform best when really crowded into a shallow bowl or container with a small amount of water then placed in a dark, cool spot for three to four weeks. During this time, they will develop roots, which is important if a good display of bloom is to follow. After this period of dark, bring the bulbs into the light and shallowly fill the container with tepid water. Do not allow the water to touch the actual bulbs or they will begin to rot.

If you keep your Paperwhites out of direct sun and cold drafts at a temperature around 60 degrees, you should have blooms for three to four weeks. The entire process from potting up to bloom takes about five weeks.

Most of us are familiar with the jars that have been designed especially for growing Hyacinths indoors and these are still available at floral shops or garden centers, as are the pre-chilled bulbs.
Place a mixture of small stones with a little charcoal (to keep the water from going stale) and fill the jar almost to the top then place your Hyacinth bulb on top, root end down. Again, do not fill so full that the bulb touches the water.

Put the jar someplace dark and cool, checking regularly for root development. Hyacinths can take eight to ten weeks to develop good roots, so keep checking and be patient. When the roots reach the bottom of the jar it is time to bring into a cool corner of the room then gradually brought nearer to a window as top growth develops. Remember to keep water in the jar and turn regularly to prevent lopsided growth. Otherwise, Hyacinths are very easy to force.

In today's gardening market, Amaryllis generally come prepared already potted up and ready to grow. They are arguably the easiest flowering bulb to force indoors and have become a well known Christmas favorite.

Amaryllis are essentially a window garden plant and, with the exception of overwatering, are practically failure proof. They come in such a wide array of colors and markings, thanks to extensive hybridising, that it is worth exploring specialist catalogs for new and unusual varieties.
Simply follow the instructions that come with your Amaryllis for successful blooms over many weeks.

Winter can be dark and grey but it doesn't need to be when it's so easy to bring color, fragrance and blossom into your home this holiday season!

© Kevin Harwood 2003

Do you have a gardening question? E-Mail it to dallywaters@bluefrog.biz

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