For a festive holiday centerpiece or blooming hostess present, consider blooming bulbs.
Amaryllis and paperwhites are easy to grow from the bulb, require little care and bloom through the shorter days of winter, making them ideal holiday-season gifts for even the novice gardener.
Many Pikes Peak region garden centers sell these living gifts as single bulbs, potted plants in various stages of growth and even kits that come with bulb, soil and container.
“The tradition of indoor bulbs is the perfect plant pick-me-up. This is one of the things that makes you feel like you’re a genius gardener — especially the paperwhites, because they’ll grow in anything — rocks, straight water, soil,” said Julie McIntyre, owner of Summerland Gardens, 124 E. Cheyenne Road.
“We carry both the bulbs and the plants. Most people want budding plants a little closer to Christmas. You can have the plant blooming for Christmas or give it to someone as a bulb and have it bloom in the middle of that long February that lies ahead. It’s nice after the holidays to have something blooming still.”
Good Earth Garden Center, 1330 N. Walnut St., had sold many potted and grown Amaryllis plants in the first week of November.
“We’ve had a big interest in Amaryllis plants recently. They’re quite easy to grow, and people do seem to like them,” said Robin Boutilier, perennial manager. “We carry the potted Amaryllis plants for about $17 to $20 in all sorts of different colors, including red, red-and-white bicolor, apricot parfait and one called evergreen, which is actually a green blossom. There are some that are kind of splotchy and spotty and some called diamond dust, because they kind of sparkle in the sun.
“You don’t need a green thumb to grow Amaryllis. They’re really easy. Plant the broad part of the bulb shoulder-down. My advice is don’t over-water; just make sure they’re hydrated,” Boutilier said. “I personally like them in a pot, or I’ve seen people do them in a large glass vase.”
She suggests turning the pot about a quarter-turn each time you water to keep the plant spike from leaning toward the light.
Paperwhites, a member of the daffodil family, are “essentially a bouquet in a bulb,” Boutilier said, and don’t take quite as long as Amaryllis to bloom. Both are tropical bulbs that don’t need a chilling period before they can be grown, as do other bulbs such as daffodils, she said. At Good Earth, paperwhite bulbs are $1.55 each or five or more for $1.25 each.
The Amaryllis bulbs at Summerland Gardens cost about $15 each and are “huge, maybe three times the size of what you’ll find at big-box stores. That’s because we buy Grade A, the highest grade, which are popular with consumers because they will probably get two flower spikes, sometimes three. The quality of the bulb impacts the number of flowers,” McIntyre said.
They are available in many colors, though most people identify with the trumpet-shaped blooms in bright scarlet red.
White or yellow paperwhites run $1.50 per bulb at Summerland. When they bloom, they emanate a very sweet smell, McIntyre said.
Larger retailers often have Amaryllis or paperwhite kits prepackaged for the holidays. McIntyre said she’s happy to make up a kit with the bulb or plant, pot and soil mix upon request.
After they bloom, Amaryllis bulbs can be stored in a cool place for eight to 10 weeks. When new growth appears, repot the bulb and return it to the light to start the cycle again, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Paperwhite bulbs, however, are more of a “once and done” bloomer, McIntyre said.