December fills our homes with the hearty scent of pine, the festive emerald greens of fir boughs, and the rich ruby reds of poinsettias and berries. And with a little planning ahead, forced floral blooms can add a fresh and cheerful addition to the wintry mix.
Paperwhites (Narcissus) are winter blooming daffodils in zones 8-10, but in our zone 5 they need to bloom indoors. Delicate and fragrant, these clusters of snowy white blooms are easy to grow and long lasting. Nestle the bulbs root side down in a decorative cache pot or clear vessel filled with glass or marble stones. The roots should barely touch the water to wake them up and entangle themselves in the stones for anchor. Rotate the container in a sunny spot so the blooms grow upright, or tie them loosely with twine to keep together. Snow-hued blooms should appear within 3 to 5 weeks of planting and last for two delightfully scent-filled weeks.
The large and majestic flowers that grow from Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs come in solid, striped, and frilly combinations of velvety scarlet red and white. These tall and graceful showstoppers need more time to bloom, so look for bulbs that have already been planted to have flowers in time for the holidays. Place in a sunny location and rotate for even growth and tie or stake as necessary to keep upright. According to experts at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, “Amaryllis bulbs can tolerate dryness, but not soggy conditions.” Therefore, allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. Each delicately scented flower will last about one week, with more blooms to follow. Amaryllis bulbs can last for years if stored and properly cared for.
Forced amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs will be available at Elawa Farm Foundation’s 2020 Holiday Market, Friday, December 4 and Saturday, December 5, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Elawa Farm, 1401 Middlefork Drive, Lake Forest, 847-234- 1966. Bulbs for forcing and already forced bulbs also available at Pasquesi Home and Garden, 975 N. Shore Drive, Lake Bluff, 847-615-2700.