How to Force Paperwhites & Amaryllis

Nov 14, 2023

Winter is almost here, are you having Bloom Withdrawal, too?
Our gloveless hands start shaking and our eyes desperately seek flowery photos in gardening magazines. Why settle for anything other than the real thing? It’s easy to force some bulbs to burst forth with dazzling blooms in December and January. To experience this winter pick-me-up, work with bulbs that do not require a winter chill.

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus)
Paperwhites are probably one of the most popular picks. These dainty flowers, with their powerful fragrance, magically appear four to six weeks from planting if started before Thanksgiving (only three to four weeks if after Turkey day).

  • Select a container with no drainage holes that is three to four inches deep.
  • Sprinkle in stone, gravel, or marbles to cover the base about one or two inches deep.
  • Set the bulbs on top of the stones so the pointy tips are facing up. Crowd the bulbs together, ‘shoulder to shoulder,’ for a dramatic show.
  • Sprinkle in more stones around the bulbs so only their tips peep out.
  • Pour water into the container so that the water line is at the bulbs’ base. Don’t cover them with water or the little gems may rot.
  • Place the container in a spot where the room temperature is around 65 degrees.
  • Don’t worry about the lighting, at this point it doesn’t matter.
  • Every day or two, check the container to see if more water is needed. Once the bulbs start to sprout, move the container to a brightly-lit area and get ready to enjoy your blooms!

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)
Amaryllis is another popular bulb for holiday forcing. Huge, bold trumpets aptly describe Amaryllis flowers. They are available in a variety of colors including red, white, pink, and bi-colors. Unlike Paperwhites, amaryllis are planted in potting soil with 1/3 of the bulb left above the top of the soil. Follow package directions for complete details. The majestic blooms will appear between six to ten weeks within planting. (Slightly longer than paperwhites.)

  • Select a container with drainage holes. It should be container that allows no more than 2″ from the bulb to the side of the container. Amaryllis likes to feel very cozy.
  • Use a well-draining potting mix
  • Plant the bulb so the top third is above the soil. This includes the narrower neck section.
  • Water thoroughly making sure none goes on the neck itself.
  • No regular watering is needed before the bulb begins to sprout. If the soil seems completely dried out, you may give it some water, but no more than once a week. Overwatering at this stage can very easily rot the bulb!
  • Keep your planted bulb at room temperature in bright, indirect light.

After you’ve enjoyed the blooms of your Paperwhites or Amaryllis, simply throw them away. It can be difficult to get them to re-bloom the following year so it’s better to add them to the compost pile and let them benefit soil life.

In November and December, Faddegon’s always stocks plenty of holiday bulbs, containers, and materials for forcing or just pick up one of our kits! The amaryllis colors are always stunning!

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