Paperwhites and Amaryllis

Wednesday November 9, 2016

Paperwhites and Amaryllis have become a holiday tradition for many gardeners and it’s easy to see why. They are easy to grow, they bloom fast and they make beautiful homemade decorations and gifts. And right now is the perfect time to start amaryllis and paperwhites so they’ll be ready for the holidays.


Paperwhites are one of the easiest bulbs to grow indoors. Paperwhites belong to the Narcissus or daffodil family, but unlike other daffodils paperwhites don’t need a chilling period before forcing. They start growing as soon as they are planted and produce flowers after only about 4 weeks. You can plant paperwhites in potting soil, decorative marbles or even in plain old water. Whatever medium you plant them in, be sure to check their moisture level each day and water as needed. Keep the bulbs in a bright, cool room (around 65 degrees). Once they have grown about two inches tall, move them to a warm, sunny window. Try not to let them get too hot, which will cause them to grow leggy.

You can also prevent leggy paperwhites by giving them a stiff drink! The ethanol alcohol found in hard liquor is an excellent growth regulator and can be used to keep paperwhites short and compact. Any hard liquor will do (vodka, gin, rum, tequila) as long as it is 40% alcohol. Water normally until the plants are two to three inches tall. Then, mix 1 part alcohol to 9 parts water and continuing watering with this solution. The result will be plants that are just as beautiful and fragrant but about 1/3 the size. Once the plants start to flower, move them to an area with indirect light so they will last longer. Each bulb blooms just once, so remove the old bulbs once their flowers are spent. Stagger your planting to have fresh blossoms all winter long.

Its big, bold flowers and bright colors make Amaryllis a holiday favorite. Like Paperwhites, they don’t need a chilling period and are ready to start growing as soon as you plant them. Amaryllis bulbs start to bloom after about 4 to 6 weeks.

Choose a pot that is just an inch or two larger than the bulb. It might seem a little small, but these bulbs like cozy spaces. Fill the pot with some potting soil and place the bulb in the center with the pointy end facing up. Then, fill potting soil around the bulb, leaving the top half uncovered. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and let water drain between waterings. When you start to see growth, move the bulb to a sunny window. As the flower stalk begins to grow, give the pot a turn every few days. This will help the stalk grow straight. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks.