Nothing like a few bulbs to brighten up those dull winter days…!
A single bowl-full of Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’, you can buy from here, with their intoxicating scent will fill the house with fragrance for weeks. They are very easy to grow, as unlike other Narcissus species, ‘Paperwhite’ do not require chilling to promote bloom. I plant them close together in bowls filled with bulb fibre making sure the growing tips are protruding just above the top of the compost and place them somewhere cool.
[Image Right: Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’]
The bulbs begin to grow as soon as they are planted, with flowers spectacularly appearing in 4-6 weeks after planting. For long lasting blooms, they are best kept cool at between 50-65°F (10-18°C) in indirect light such as an entrance hall.
The fabulous Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)
You may have noticed crates of very large bulbs for sale at your local garden centre or DIY store or in individual boxes with a pot – these are Amaryllis (Hippeastrum). What fabulously over-the-top plants they are, coming in a vast array of colours from deepest red through pinks to white and many multi coloured forms. When I was little boy, I used to refer to them as loud speaker plants as one stem can hold four large 6ins wide blooms reminding me of loud speakers!
[Image Right: Hippeastrum ‘Black Pearl’]
Individual bulbs (which can be quite large) should be planted in bulb fibre in a container only about 1ins wider than the bulb, with ¾ of the bulb above the surface (do not bury the bulb). A flowering spike will soon appear; rapidly growing up to 18ins tall with tightly closed buds that soon explode into full floral radiance. Given a bright, airy, cool position, they will bloom for several weeks. The strap-like leaves appear soon after the flowers spike. If several bulbs are purchased, they should be planted in succession every two weeks or so, greatly extending the flowering season.
When they have finished flowering, they can then be fed with a proprietary house plant fertilizer. In the spring withhold water and they will then go dormant for the summer months ready to flower again the following spring autumn.