Bulbs for Christmas

There is nothing nicer to mark the Christmas period than with fresh flowering bulbs around the house. The house can be filled with the fragrances of hyacinth, alongside the dramatic and stunning blooms of amaryllis (Hippeastrum). Not only are they easy to grow and within everyone’s capability, they make a fantastic gift to be given around the festive season.

 

HOW TO GROW AMARYLLIS

 

What you’ll need:

  • Amaryllis bulb

  • A pot 12-15cm (6-8”) wide

  • Potting compost/ bulb fibre.

  • Bamboo Stake

 

PLANTING A NEW AMARYLLIS BULB

  1. Choose a firm plump bulb that has some roots at the base.

  2. Pot up 6-8 weeks before bloom is required. Your bulb should fit snuggly in the pot. Amaryllis bulbs like to feel crowded in the pot in order to bloom. Your pot should have drainage holes in it.

  3. Fill up the pot partially with compost and place the bulb on top. Fill around the bulb with compost but leave about a third of it exposed.

  4. Push in gently a bamboo stake by the side of the bulb. Amaryllis can be top heavy and you will need this later to support the flower bloom.

  5. Water well. Do not allow water to go down the neck of the bulb as this will cause damage.

  6. Put the pot in a bright, indirect light, water but not excessively.

  7. A thick stalk should appear in a couple of weeks. The flat leaves will appear as the flower stalks matures.

  8. Turn the pot every few days so that it grows straight.

  9. Feed your amaryllis with a half strength water soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.

  10. The flower stalk will continue to grow and bloom, tie to stake when it becomes top heavy.

 

AFTERCARE

  1. To force your bloom for the following Christmas, cut back flower stalk after flower fades, but allow the foliage to continue to grow. It can be placed outside during the summer if weather permits.

  2. Keep the soil watered, moist to the touch but not wet.

  3. Stop feeding in August.

  4. Bring indoors in September and stop watering. The foliage will have started to die back by this time. The lack of foliage and water will encourage the bulb to send out another flower stalk. Move at this point to a sunny spot and resume watering.

 

 

HOW TO GROW HYACINTHS FOR CHRISTMAS

 

This method is the same for all forced bulbs.

  1. To enjoy hyacinth bulbs for Christmas, make sure you purchase bulbs labelled “prepared”.

  2. Hyacinth bulbs can cause skin irritation, so for those that are sensitive it may be advisable to wear gloves.

  3. Ideally choose compost such as bulb fibre, alternatively a free draining moisture retentive compost can be used.

  4. Put a layer of compost in your chosen pot. Set the bulbs on the compost, depending on the size of the chosen pot, you can have as many as the pot will allow. The bulbs can be close together but they must not touch each other or the side of the pot. Fill around the bulbs with more compost, with the tips of the bulbs just showing.

  5. After planting the bulbs need a dark and cool period (ideally 9oC) to encourage a good root system to develop.

  6. Place in a black polythene bag and store in a dark corner of a garage or shed.

  7. Check to see that they haven’t dried out. Water if necessary.

  8. Once roots have developed and the shoots are 4-5 cm long (1 ½- 2”) high, the pots can be brought indoors to a cool room away from bright sunlight to allow leaves to green up.

  9. Once leaves have greened up they can be moved to a window in warmer surroundings.

  10. Do not stand them next to a radiator, a humid atmosphere is preferred.

  11. Keep moist.

 

USING A BULB VASE

 

Many of you will have done this at school, and it is a method that children really enjoy. The bulb should fit snuggly into the neck of the vase. Fill the glass vase with water up to the neck and place the bulb on top. The water level should be just below the neck of the bottom of the bulb. The plant should then be treated in the same way as above.

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