December 11, 2018
In PHS History
By Jenny Rose Carey, Senior Director, PHS Meadowbrook Farm
December is the month to plant indoor bulbs in containers for some early color and fragrance in your house. Plant your bulbs in succession – some now and some in a couple of weeks – to prolong the blooms in your house.
Take it Easy:
The easiest bulb to grow inside in the winter is the Paperwhite daffodil or Narcissus. I find that it is one of those ‘Love it or hate it’ plants, mostly due to the heavy floral fragrance that you either love or hate. My oldest daughter loves the smell as it reminds her of being at her great grandmother’s house as a child. Paperwhite bulbs are available at local shops or online. They are easy to grow, and this is a perfect project to do with your children or grandchildren.
Find a container with no holes in it. An old dish, mixing bowl or thrift shop find is often the most fun container. It needs to be just deep enough to hold the bulbs. Add some stones, gravel, or my favorite --colorful marbles -- into the container. The stones or marbles are used as a decorative element as this pot of paperwhites will be sitting in your living room or kitchen. The traditional paperwhite look was white pebbles that you had collected on your favorite beach the summer before. If you didn’t collect them, it might be too late now, but fun for next year! If you don’t have pebbles or stones on hand, but you have potting soil, that works too! It is just needed to hold the roots. Another type of container is a taller vase that will support the foliage and flowers as they grow. There is a specific bulb-vase that you can purchase, or just improvise with a vase that you already own. Put pebbles into the bottom of the vase to hold the bulb upright.
A Force of Nature:
The bulbs are the next addition. You can gently take off some of the loose brown outer coat of the bulb, but do not damage the bulb itself. Nestle the rounded bottom of the bulb into a divot in the stones. The bulb should sink no more than half way into the stones. Then add water to touch the base of the bulb. Keep the water topped up as needed but do not submerge the bulb, just the base at most. Pack the bulbs in tightly, touching or slightly apart.
Keep your bulbs in a cool place first to allow the bulbs to send out roots. After a couple of weeks of root growth, move the container into a warmer area to allow them to flower. Turn your bulb container around every couple of days so that it doesn’t grow towards the light.
When they bloom you will find out whether you like the smell of the paperwhite daffodil! When the paperwhites are finished blooming, compost them. I did try to bring them back for next year, but it is hard to do.
Try Another Fragrance:
Hyacinth is another fragrant flower that comes in white, blue or pink, as well as other unique colors including salmon or beetroot. Wear gloves when handling the bulbs as there is an irritant on the outside of the bulb. They can be grown in a bulb-vase as singles and then clustered. Or grow them in potting soil. Plant the bulbs close together for the best effect.
Enjoy bringing a little bit of spring inside your house. And when spring rolls around again, plan to visit us at PHS Meadowbrook Farm. We will open in early April. Check the website for opening days and hours.
Learn more about forcing bulbs in a Behind-the-Scenes Flower Show Greenhouse Tour (PHS Member exclusive), on Tuesday, February 19, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at PHS Meadowbrook Farm.
Check the PHS Calendar for a full list of upcoming programs and workshops.