Forced Winter Bulbs

My amaryllis bulb in bloom.

Winter does not have to be a time of desolateness.  Forced bulbs brought indoors are a bright spot in a bleak winter home, just as winter blooming bulbs (well, snowdrops) provide beauty among a lackluster winter landscape.  Additionally, there are a variety of blooms which offer several colors to use in combination or as a monochromatic offering.

Bulbs to consider are:

  • Amaryllis – pinks, reds, whites, and combinations thereof
  • Narcissus/daffodils/jonquil – variations of yellow and white
  • Paper whites (which are also a narcissus) – white
  • Grape hyacinths – purple/blue
  • Crocus – purple, white, yellow, pink, orange, red, combinations thereof
  • Tulips – red, white, yellow, orange, and white
Such a lovely display.

I love to grow one single amaryllis bulb in a nice planter.  Its long, straight stem creates balance between the large multi-bloom flower and the planter.  An amaryllis looks so restrained and elegant.  It is an attention getter!

My paper whites are starting to grow.

Another favorite of mine is a small cluster of paper whites in a planter.  The small white blooms are a bit of calm amid the bright colors of the Christmas decorations.

At a previous home I owned, the yard was full of daffodil bulbs which had been planted by the previous owners.  I wish I had collected a few before I sold the house.  They lined either side of the driveway and were bright and festive when in bloom outside.  I know they would have looked lovely inside as well!

A metal planter with paper white bulbs.

Bulbs in pretty planters make excellent gifts!  It is always fun to watch a flower grow, especially now that we are all staying close to home more.  The great thing about giving someone a bulb or bulbs is that they can plant them in their yard or store them in order to enjoy them indoors the next year.

If planning to give as a gift, you will want to be sensitive to anyone with allergies as well as mindful of the strong scent of some of the flowers.  I have read several reviews of paper whites where the owner had to move the planter outside or to the garage because the smell was so strong.  I have read that some people love the smell, and others do not care for it.

Other flowering bulbs that have scents are daffodils and amaryllis which generally are mild smelling, hyacinths which tend to smell sweet, and some tulips and crocuses have faint scents.

Two blooms on the amaryllis.

There are some amazing arrangements of various forced bulbs available at flowers shops and online retailers.  Or you could purchase several bulbs and planters and make up the arrangements yourself.

If doing the latter, read the directions on the bulbs you have selected.  Every source may give you different directions, so do what makes sense to you.  I noticed for the amaryllis, I read to plant the entire bulb, three-fourths of the bulb, half the bulb and only the bottom fourth of the bulb below the soil line.  When in doubt, I usually split my options. I plant my amaryllis bulbs halfway down in the soil.

Choose a pretty planter that goes with your home or the decor of the recipient.  There are so many lovely planters made of ceramic, metal, or terra cotta that you should be able to find something that will go perfectly.  For a farmhouse decor, I think an old, enameled bowl or shallow dish would look lovely.  My husband gave me an ornate planter for my birthday that would look amazing filled with paper whites!  A brass planter would be perfect in a traditionally decorated home or office.  Look at thrift stores, antique stores, and eBay for a unique and fitting planter.  A small colorful planter from the 1960s or ’70s filled with bulbs would make a thoughtful gift for a person who decorates mid-century modern.  With enough thought, the planter could be as much a gift as the bulbs!

I use Miracle Grow Indoor Potting Mix to fill the planter, leaving about an inch or two to the top of the planter.  Once the bulbs are in, I top the soil with small pebbles (I used mixed river pebbles that I purchased at my local garden store), in order to prevent the soil from splashing when watered and to add a finished look to the planter.  Spanish moss would have the same effect.  If you felt like the bulbs and pebbles or moss did not fill up the planter as much as you would like, then you could add a colorful bow on a floral pick (or use a thin wire wrapped around the top of half a skewer; then secure the ends around the center of the bow; nestle the skewer in the soil near a bulb.)

My bulbs about two weeks after planting.

Since getting bulbs to bloom at a certain time is a bit tricky, you may want to deliver these gifts ahead of time.  I planted the amaryllis and paper whites on November 20.  The amaryllis started blooming on December 7, but the paper whites have a long way to go.  At least they are growing!  Maybe they will bloom on Christmas Day!

This is a gift that I consider a disposable gift (something that can be enjoyed, but doesn’t require storage, upkeep, etc. – to read more about what I mean, click here) .  Not only is this an enjoyable gift for recipients of all ages, but it is also an affordable gift.  It would be perfect for a gift exchange or secret Santa.

Although I am not growing these bulbs this year, here are photos of the other flowers listed above as well as a picture of paper whites.

Crocuses or croci. Image by Couleur from Pixabay.
Tulips. Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay.
Hyacinths. Image by _Alicja_ from Pixabay.
Daffodils. Image by Anja from Pixabay.
Paper whites. Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay.

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