Leonard Perry writes from the University of Vermont Extension System in Burlington, Vt. said:
Two types of bulbs are suitable for forcing. One group requires “cold treatment,” the other doesn’t. When purchasing bulbs, look for healthy, large-sized bulbs (at least one and one-half inches in diameter) with a smooth skin free of injury.
The two main bulbs that don’t need a cold treatment to bloom are amaryllis and paper-white narcissus (also includes yellow narcissus varieties such as “Grand Soleil d’Or” and “Chinese Sacred Lily”). These are the easiest, and perhaps best for beginners to try.
Leonard said speaking about Paper-White Narcissus
Paper whites are sold loose or already potted. If you pot your own, figure that a four inch pot can hold one bulb. A six-inch pot holds three, and a seven-inch pot, five or six. Loosely fill the container with clean gravel chips or pea gravel to about an inch from the rim.
Place bulbs so they’re not touching and their necks stick out about one-half inch above the gravel surface. Fill with water to just below the gravel, and set the container in a cool location. If you use a non-draining, shallow bulb pan, take care not to overwater, which can cause rot.
For best results, place the pots in a dark location with temperatures from 40 to 55 degrees F. for two weeks, or until you have two to four inches of top growth and a vigorous bed of roots. Then bring into the light and warmer temperatures. Your bulbs will flower in three to six weeks.
Speaking about Amaryllis, Leonard said:
Amaryllis provide a wider range of colors and forcing times than paper-whites and are usually sold in pre potted packages. To start the flowering process, place the bulb in a well-lighted area and give it a good initial watering. Subsequent waterings should be light until the plant starts to grow. The flower stalk should emerge before the leaves. Large bulbs can produce as many as three flower stalks.
Deborah L. Brown and Harold F. Wilkins, University of Minnesota
Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Beauty in Winter
Amaryllis is a tender bulb that will bloom without special treatment when first purchased. It should be potted up in light, rich soil in a pot that is only 1–2 inches larger in diameter than the bulb. The upper half of the bulb should be exposed above the soil. After watering thoroughly, allow the soil to become quite dry. Water more frequently after the flower stalk appears, but never water when the soil is already moist. Put the plant in a warm, sunny spot until the flower buds show color, then move it out of direct sunlight.
After blooming, cut off the flowers to prevent seed formation. The foliage should be handled as if it were a sun loving houseplant. Place it in the brightest possible location indoors until it is warm enough to sink the pot in soil outdoors where it will receive dappled sunlight at first. Gradually move it to a brighter location where eventually it has full sun for at least five or six hours daily. Fertilize with a balanced houseplant food at regular intervals to build up the nutrients needed for blooming the following year.
Amaryllis should be brought indoors before the first frost in the fall. Traditionally, the bulb is then given a resting period by placing it in a dark location, withholding all water and allowing the leaves to dry. The bulb may be forced into bloom again after resting eight weeks, or even less, should new growth appear spontaneously. If necessary, repot in a slightly larger container. If the pot is still large enough, remove the upper 2 inches of soil and topdress with fresh potting soil. This completes the cycle, which may be repeated annually for many years of lovely blossoms.
Amaryllis is an especially colorful flowering plant for the home.
Amaryllis also can be kept growing actively year-round without the traditional rest and subsequent forcing. When handled this way, however, the bulbs probably will not bloom until spring. They still require annual repotting or topdressing along with adequate light and fertilizer to ensure repeated bloom.
Often small plantlets will develop beside a well-grown amaryllis. These may be separated gently from the large bulb and repotted, or they may be left attached and allowed to grow to full size along with the original bulb. You could end up with a large pot containing several amaryllis, all blooming at once . . . a spectacular sight!
With a little care and effort, you can have a steady supply of bulb flowers from late January to April. Forcing bulbs into flowering can be a great pleasure and challenge for anyone who is interested in flowering plants.
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