There are many options for indoor flowering plants throughout the winter. Nearly every bulb variety can be “forced” or tricked into believing it is spring and time for them to shine. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs are great for forcing indoors because unlike many bulbs, they do not require a cold treatment. It usually takes only 3-5 weeks to see blooms from the time they are planted. The fact that they don’t require soil means minimal mess in the house, unless Tobias is “helping.” This is a great project for little ones so don’t hesitate to get them involved.
Like all projects, gathering your supplies and tools ahead of time lays the groundwork for a successful venture. You’ll need a container without a drainage hole, a filler medium, water and, of course, bulbs. That’s it. It can’t get any easier. Are you ready to get started?
Choosing bulbsSelect high-quality bulbs that are free of mold and mildew. For our purposes, we selected paperwhites which require no chilling. Amaryllis is also an option for the following process.
Choosing a container and filler
The ideal container is 3”- 4” deep. While any container without a drainage hole can be used, a glass container is preferred, especially for first timers and children. A glass container allows for easy monitoring of the roots and eliminates any guesswork when it comes to deciding when to move the container.
There are a variety of materials that can be used as filler. Pebbles, crushed rock, marbles, etc. are all good choices. The purpose of the filler is to provide stability and support for the plant as it grows. The filler should be made up of fairly small pieces so that the roots can fill in around them.
Spread 1-1/2” of filler in the bottom of the container. Set the bulbs, pointed side up, in the filler and use the remaining filler medium to support and fill in the gaps around the bulbs. Leave the tips of the bulbs showing above the filler. Add enough water for the water level to reach the bottom of the bulbs.
Storing the plantFor those of you who have been waiting for the “trick” to begin, here it is. You will need to find a dark, cool place for the plant to hang out for a few weeks. The ideal temperature is 55 – 65 degrees F. The plant believes it is winter and will start sending out roots.
It usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks for the roots to begin developing. When you can see the roots and the top of the plant begins to elongate, it is time to move them into the light. Find a sunny spot where the plant will be tricked into thinking spring has sprung. The more sun the better, but remember: the point is for the plant to think it is spring, not summer, so watch out for the temperature. After about one week, you will begin seeing several buds on each stalk.
To prolong the growing season, stagger your planting over several weeks. This will provide you with beautiful plants throughout the winter months. While it is not advisable to mix bulb types in a container, give serious consideration to starting a variety of bulbs to take advantage of the full array of colors these plants can produce.
Once you are comfortable forcing bulbs like paperwhites and amaryllis, consider the other spring beauties: tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and the like. These cold-treatment bulbs require more time and a bit different methodology, but are certainly worth the effort, especially in the dreary, cold winter days of January and February. If you are interested in learning more about forcing cold treatment bulbs, let us know.
We wish you the best of luck with your planting, whatever the season.
Rachael and Tobias
Rare is the season when I don’t find myself considering making changes to my landscape. Sometimes it is out of necessity – Mother Nature or the neighborhood pests have a hand (or teeth!) in it. Other times, I may want to change just a plant or two to give my landscape a fresh look. So, off I go to my neighborhood garden center, looking for something to fit a specific spot. Sound familiar?
But wait! Before you grab your keys, you might want to take some time to consider some key elements. You need to know the correct plant size to fill the space. You also need to know how much sunlight the space receives on a daily basis. You also want to be aware of the existing plant colors – foliage and blossoms – to make sure your new plant will complement the existing landscape.
When deciding what size of plant you need to fill a space, it can be helpful to use objects to help visualize what the landscape will look like after the plant is installed and as it matures. Any object will work, so get creative. Items such as a trash can, cardboard box, or empty pot will all do the trick. Tobias likes to use a mouse, ground squirrel, or fish, but those would be for a very small spot. Once you find an object that has the right size, take those measurements with you to the garden center.
How much sun does the plant need? Light requirements are usually listed as full sun, part sun, part shade, or full shade. Their general guidelines are:
* Full sun: At least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
* Part sun: 3-6 hours of sun.
* Part shade: 3-6 hours of shade. These plants will require shade in the afternoon to protect from the intense late day sun.
* Full shade: Less than 3 hours of direct sunlight with dappled shade the rest of the day. This is Tobias’ favorite. Keep in mind that full shade does not mean zero sun exposure. There aren’t many plants that can survive in complete darkness.
Once you have the information about size and light, start reading plant tags. You’ll find the tags have a wealth of information about the specific plant. Most will not only give you the size and light requirements, but will also provide planting instructions and include a picture of the plant so you’ll have an idea of what to expect once it matures.
A cautionary tale: Some information on plant labels may be slightly misleading because the labels are not made specifically for Nebraska. For example, a rhododendron may be listed as full sun because in certain climates it needs full sun, but in Nebraska it needs afternoon shade to protect it from the intense Midwest summer sun. If you have any questions on sun requirements, a garden center employee should be able to help.
Don’t hesitate to forego a plant once in awhile. While you’re at the garden center, take a look around at the garden art. Sculptures, chimes, metal art and the like can add a great deal to a space. Perhaps a trip to the hard goods yard is in order. There you’ll find boulders of all shapes and sizes, many of which can easily be transformed into a bubbling water feature. If you love the hunt and are patient, you might search for a beautiful old bench at antique stores or estate sales.
There are lots of ways to fill in a landscape bed. We hope you enjoy exploring the options throughout the seasons.
Rachael and Tobias
Nebraska's frost-free date is right around the corner. Do you have May 10 circled on your calendar? Tobias and I can't wait to get started on our container garden.
Container gardening is the perfect solution for people with limited planting space or mobility issues. Container gardens can add a wonderful splash of color to an outdoor living space, make an entryway more inviting and provide fresh herbs for the kitchen.
Are you ready to get started?
Consider the size of the plants in relation to the size of your pot. It is important to leave a little bit of growing room. Most annuals will come with a tag that will have the mature height and width of the plant. This information is very helpful when planning your design. Different heights and textures will add interest and depth to your pots. Tobias prefers the large foliage plants, while I tend to go for the flowers, but a nice combination of both foliage and flowers makes for a design appealing to the eye.
Water and fertilizer are the keys to healthy, continuously blooming containers. When a plant is blooming, it is using an incredible amount of energy and nutrients to produce those flowers. However, when a plant doesn’t get enough moisture it goes into survival mode, which usually means dropping its blooms to conserve energy. Fertilizing your plants will provide them with the nutrients they need to keep flowering. There are many different fertilizers on the market and most people have a favorite. I have had great success with organic fertilizers. I look for organic fertilizers made specifically to increase blooms. It is important to read and follow the directions on the package. I like to find a fertilizer that can be applied weekly. I then alternate fertilizer and root starter once per week. Root starter can be found in the fertilizer section. With this schedule, you are supporting both top and root growth for a healthy, vigorous plant.
Removing spent blossoms (sometimes known as dead-heading) will also help your annuals keep flowering. When a blossom is done flowering, the plant actually uses a considerable amount of energy to get rid of the flower. By removing the spent flowers, the plant can use the energy to grow and to put on new blooms. This is more important for some annuals than for others. Geraniums will benefit from dead-heading more than a plant with small flowers like Lobelia.
Tobias and I hope you enjoy container gardening as much as we do. You can get more information on container gardening AND
see a picture of Tobias and one of his pals in the May newsletter, so go to our website http://www.cmscustomlawn.com
and check it out. Better yet, if you don’t already receive our newsletter, you can subscribe right from our website's home page.
We’d love to see pictures of your projects. Feel free to send them to us at email@example.com
. Until the next time, happy gardening!
Rachael and Tobias (Meow!)