I love growing Narcissus (Paperwhites) in the spring and in the fall/early winter. If you stagger planting these bulbs you can have continuous blooms from now all through the holidays. Narcissus and Amaryllis both grow well in soil or in a vase or shallow bowl with no soil at all. I love taking amaryllis bulbs to anyone that I visit during the holidays; you can even find bulb kits at the nursery or almost any store this time of year.
Unlike most bulbs these two don’t need to be chilled before planting, they love our warm climate (even if sometimes we don’t!). If you want continuous blooms buy a dozen or so bulbs and store some in a cool dark place and ‘plant’ every few weeks through late winter. Amaryllis will bloom 6 – 8 weeks after planting and Paperwhites 3-5 weeks after planting.
To plant in soil make sure the container is about 5”- 6” deep, plant the Paperwhite bulbs, with the root end down so that the tops peek above the soil surface. You can plant 5 bulbs in this pot and space them a little apart from each other. Water until the soil is damp but not soggy or the bulbs will rot, water occasionally until they bloom then water regularly but do not overwater. Some Paperwhites are very tall and need support to keep from falling over. Plant one Amaryllis bulb in the same size pot with the tip about one-third above the soil. Amaryllis can be encouraged to bloom again next year if planted in soil, cut off the old bloom to about 1” above the bulb, water and feed regularly and let the leaves grow throughout the year. In late summer stop watering and let the leaves dies back naturally as they start to store energy for the next season. You can dig up the bulb or leave in the pot and place into a cool, dark place for about 8 weeks. You can repot in fresh soil or add a little finished compost to it, bring it back into a light area, water infrequently until you see growth and then repeat the process. Paperwhites won’t usually bloom again so buy new bulbs each year.
To plant in gravel or stones place a layer of stones or gravel over the bottom of a vase to a depth of 2-4” for the Amaryllis or paperwhites and place the bulb or bulbs on top of the stones, fill the vase with more stones up to the top third of the bulb and add water up to 1” below the base of the bulb, do not let the bulb sit in water or it will rot. Add water as needed but keep the level below the base of the bulb. Be sure to use a vase or jar that is tall enough so that it won’t tip over as the flower shoots grow.
Buy some ‘kits’ as hostess gifts for the holidays and store in a cool, dark place until you need them. (Don’t forget where you stash them though!)