Throughout the fall, many gardeners are busy planting spring bulbs to shorten their winter. It is also a good time to plant bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites that you can have in your home throughout the winter, and especially for the holidays.
Believe it or not, now is the time to plant your amaryllis to have them blooming in time for Christmas Day. And while paperwhites grow quicker than amaryllis, it's not a bad idea to buy them now and store them in the refrigerator, as they tend to sell out fairly quickly.
Amaryllis is a tropical bulb native to South America. They are beautiful six to ten inch trumpet shaped flowers at the top of a one to two foot stem. The large blooms come in a variety of colors, sizes and can even vary in being a single layer of petals to a fuller double layer of petals. The colors range from a simple white or red to striped petals of pink or a bright lime green. Petal shape can also vary, giving you loads of textures available to decorate your home with.
Amaryllis take between six and ten weeks to bloom after planting, meaning that now is the time to get yours planted to have it blooming for Christmas. It is best to put the potted bulb in a warm, sunny place to begin its growth. Once it has begun, place the pot somewhere a bit cooler so the stem does not grow too tall. These make great holiday gifts for gardeners who want a little bit of color in their home during the winter.
Amaryllis can be planted from October through April. When you go to plant your bulb, choose a pot that is barely larger than the bulb itself. Be sure your pot has proper drainage. Being that an amaryllis is a bulb, it will rot easily if the water has nowhere to go after you water it.
As you plant the bulb, be sure to avoid damaging the roots. No matter how deep your pot is, be sure that at least a third of the bulb is exposed at the top of the soil. (See photo) While it may look funny to us, this is how amaryllis need to be planted to ensure success. Water the bulb after you planted it, but then less frequently until the stem begins to grow.
Amaryllis may shoot up only one stem, but can often shoot up multiple stems, each producing multiple flowers. Once an amaryllis flower has finished blooming, cut that faded flower off promptly. This will allow the plant to give its energy to the flowers that remain, keeping them in bloom longer.
If you want to try to get the bulb to bloom a second year, there are a few extra steps. Once all the flowers are done, allow the leaves to continue to grow and develop, treating it as you would any other houseplant. In May, plant the bulb, pot and all, in a sheltered spot in your garden. Starting in September, stop watering the bulb. In October, trim the foliage down and place the bulb, pot and all, in a cool, dry place. Come January, re-pot the bulb in new soil, removing old roots, and wait for it to start the process over again.
The blooms the second time around may not be as spectacular as newly-purchased bulbs. This is because the new bulbs go through a three-year preparation process to produce brilliant blooms. This is also why amaryllis bulbs cost more than your tulip and daffodil bulbs.
Paperwhites are more well-known among amateur gardeners. They are truly the "Just add water" type of plant. Part of the narcissus family, paperwhites produce bunches of fragrant, small, white flowers that look like miniature daffodils.
These bulbs can be easily force-grown indoors, not needing to be chilled before growth begins, as hyacinths or tulips need. As soon as the flowers are planted, they begin to grow, producing blooms about three to four weeks later. To prolong blooming, it is best to keep them in a cooler room and indirect light. These are also popular gifts to give, as well as decorations in the home.
Paperwhites are popular because they can be grown in or out of soil. Many people will use them a a table centerpiece after being grown in decorative stones and water. You can basically plant them in any medium, and as long as they have water, they'll grow. Just be sure that when growing paperwhites in this manner that you do not have the bulbs completely submerged in water, as they will rot.
When you plant them, put a layer of your medium, let's say stones, in the bottom of a shallow dish that has no drainage. Then place your bulbs in the medium so that they will start standing. Part of the trick is to pack the container with as many bulbs as it will fit. Once all your bulbs are placed, fill in the gaps with your stones, leaving the point of the bulb sticking out of your stones. Then fill the containers with water up to the base of the bulbs. Be sure to refill the container with additional water as needed.
Both amaryllis and paperwhites can add to your home during the holiday season and throughout the winter.
Fall is the time of year to plant your spring bulbs. To get those first sprigs of green next spring and have beautiful tulips and daffodils after a long winter, you need to get them in the ground before the ground freezes. Here are some of the most common questions we get about planting these. Let us know if you have any questions of your own and we’ll get you the answers you need!
Q: What can I do about animals that are moving or eating my bulbs when I plant them?
A: There’s nothing worse than taking the time to get a beautiful selection of spring bulbs planted and having squirrels and other critters dig them up, move them or eat them. Gardeners mainly have an issue with animals and tulip bulbs, because other bulbs like hyacinths are poisonous for these guys. So one solution is to plant bulbs you know they won’t go after. However, everyone likes to see tulips in the spring time, so here are a few other ideas on how to deter the critters.
When planting your bulbs, you can add chicken wire over the top of the bulbs to keep the tiny paws from getting a hold of the bulbs. Be sure to secure the sides by bending the edges downward and push the edges into the soil. You’ll add this wire over the top of the bulbs before filling in the area with soil to cover the bulbs.
You can also try products similar to what you use to keep animals away from your plants. Sprinkle the area with animal repellants like Repels All, use some hot pepper spray or even coyote and fox urine in the area. These will hopefully scare the smaller animals away and prevent them from even trying to dig for your bulbs.
Q: Can I put them in pots or do they have to go in the ground?
A: Spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are perennials, and like other perennials you have in your garden, they need protection from our cold winters. So the best way to ensure your tulips will bloom next spring, is to plant them in the ground. But, there is a way to plant them in containers and overwinter them.
The first step is choosing a pot. Make sure the container has drainage so the bulbs do not rot by sitting in overly-wet soil. Also, the container will need to be at least 24 inches in diameter. Having a large container allows for a lot of soil, which will help insulate the bulbs. If there is not enough soil in the pot, the bulbs may freeze during the winter and never grow for you the following spring. If you have smaller containers you want to use, you will have to insulate them by either burying them in mulch or bringing them into your garage or shed where it is cooler, but not as cold as the outside.
Once you have chosen a pot, fill it with a high-quality potting mix, not garden soil, and plant the bulbs just as you would in the ground (about 2-3 times as deep as they are long. For example, a daffodil bulb is about 2 inches tall, so plant is 6 inches deep). Water the pots after you have planted the bulbs.
Once the warmer temperatures begin to warm in spring, bring any smaller containers you stored away outside. You’ll notice the bulbs starting to sprout just as they would in the ground.
Q: Can I transplant bulbs? (Cannas, Elephant Ears, etc)
A: Yes! Bulbs like elephant ears and canna lilies are not hardy in our area. When the evening temperatures start to dip below 40 degrees, it is time to store them for the winter in order to be able to grow them again next year.
To store the bulb overwinter, you will need to first dig it up out of the soil. When digging up the bulb, be careful not to damage it in any way. Any bit of damage could lead to rotting over winter. To prevent damage, start digging at least 6 inches out from where the plant is growing out of the ground.
Once the bulb is dug up, you will want to clean the bulb off. Gently rinse them in water, not scrubbing or using any sort of chemical. Cut off the remaining foliage that is coming out of the bulb at this point, as well. Now that the bulb is clean, it has to be dried to prevent rotting. Keep the bulb in a warm, dark room with good air circulation around it for about a week to be sure it is completely dried.
Once the bulb is dried, wrap it in paper and keep it in a cool, dry room for the winter. Once the ground has warmed up in May, go ahead and plant the bulb in your garden again.
Carving pumpkins has become more of an art form it seems, with people using different tools, pumpkins, and materials to create this traditional Halloween decoration. Here are a few ideas of what you can do with your pumpkin this year, other than the classic smiling Jack-O-Lantern.
One idea is to use your pumpkin to help decorate for your favorite football team. From "Da Bears" to "Go Hawks" or "Boilers," you can decorate for Halloween and show your team spirit all at once.
Another alternative to carving the traditional face is to use other pumpkins and gourds in your Halloween display. You can carve the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a grouping of pumpkins, adding the correct colored headbands of course. Or you could use a miniature pumpkin or gourd that's being eaten by your much larger pumpkin (see photo). Carving a scared or surprised face into the small gourd as it gets devoured by the much scarier, larger pumpkin.
Going along with using little gourds, you could skip the traditional pumpkin all-together and pick out one of the many interesting large gourds to carve instead. Use a white pumpkin or the large blue gourds and carve it just like you would a pumpkin. Scoop out the insides, and get creative with the faces. There are lots of unique gourds to choose from, and even a few extra-warty pumpkins that could make great witch faces for your porch.
There are also a lot of ways to decorate your pumpkins without having to get out any knives or spoons. Pumpkins can be easily painted with black, silver, or dark purple paint, adding scary faces or just polka-dots. Add some glitter to the pumpkin to make it really sparkle! You can also use miniature pumpkins and paint to make creative place cards for fall dinners or your Thanksgiving table. Simply paint the first name of the guest, or write it with a paint pen, and they have a party favor to take home as well.
Another way to use pumpkins to decorate is to create a stack. This is very popular with Cindarella pumpkins. These pumpkins are not as round as your traditional jack-o-lanterns, and come in shades varying from a pale yellow to a deep red-orange. Add a little bit of straw or fake spider webs to fill your urns for the fall.
Finally, a great use for pumpkins is to use them as your planter. Cut the top of the pumpkin off and clean out the pumpkins as you would if you were going to carve them. Then fill them with dirt and create a beautiful fall arrangement, or simply drop in a large mum. This unique planter gives a creative spin on the usual bushel basket planters you see on everyone's porch, but they do not last as long as traditional pots. Depending on the weather, the carved pumpkin or gourd will begin to rot after three or four weeks. The warmer and wetter it is, the quicker they will rot, so keep them under a protected porch or put them in the garage if it's going to rain. (The pictured container was planted three weeks ago and is still holding up quite well.)
So try something new this year with your Halloween decorations, adding a few more gourds and faces to your front porch.