Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs

 – by Daniel Cruz


One of my favorite things to do in my garden during the two months before Christmas
is to get Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus going, for use indoors, and to give as gifts. Many bulbs can be forced to bloom if done correctly and timed just right, but Paper Whites and Amaryllis are by far the easiest and the ones most readily associated with the holidays. We have many varieties of amaryllis bulbs available and you don’t necessarily have to stick with red as all varieties are beautiful and easy to grow.

To force Paperwhites in water: Place 1-2 tablespoons of agricultural charcoal in a clean, shallow pot or bowl with sides at least 4 inches high and without drainage holes in the bottom. The charcoal helps keep the water fresh but is not absolutely necessary as long as you keep the water fresh and remove any that starts looking dirty. There are a ton of attractive containers available these days but clear glass is one of my favorites.

Fill the container with a half inch to an inch of clean gravel or stones. Place as many bulbs as possible in the container, but do not let them touch one another or the sides of the pot. Place the paperwhite bulbs on the gravel, pointed-side up. Fill in around them with gravel. You want the gravel to hold the bulbs upright but not cover them and you want to leave the tips of the bulbs above the gravel.


Fill the container with water until it’s just beneath, but not touching, the bottom of the bulbs. The roots will grow down into the water. Maintain the water at this level. Place the pot in a cool, dim or dark area. Good air circulation is important. Roots will appear in one to three days. When they have developed and the foliage is 4 to 5 inches tall (roughly three weeks), move the container to a cool, bright spot. The light will green up the foliage. Rotate the pot frequently, for even growth. The new shoots will develop rapidly, and in three weeks the fragrant, white flowers should open and last for up to 10 days.


Amaryllis can be planted in clay
pots in much the same way as paperwhites except usually only one
bulb is used per pot and soil is substituted as the growing medium. You may wish to insert a tall thin stake at planting time to avoid damaging the roots later on. It is very important to rotate the pot frequently to avoid uneven growth. One of my favorite things to do to my potted amaryllis, whether they are gifts or for myself, is to sprinkle fresh rye grass seed or wheat grass seed onto the soil around the bulb. Usually, this is done two to three weeks before your bulb is ready to bloom and makes the planting even more interesting. Timing is everything as it usually takes 6 to 8 weeks for Amaryllis and about 6 weeks for Paperwhites.


Amaryllis and Paperwhites can be planted outdoors at many different times, but if you want blooms by Christmas, plant now!