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Oklahoma Outside


Blooming Indoors


Hyacinths and other forced bulbs help liven the winter months. Photos by Dee Nash


By Dee Nash A


re you an indoor plant person? Do you get excited bringing your tropicals back inside after their summer vacation? If you asked me how I feel about indoor plants, I would probably say they aren’t my thing, but that can’t be true. To combat the long winter months, my home is full of growing and blooming plants. I have terrariums fi lled with tropicals, Christmas cactus and bulbs forced in pots and vases. I have a love/hate relationship with the standard tropical plants sold and grown indoors. I can’t get excited about a peace lily or a fi cus because they just seem to sit there and gather dust. I know they clean the air, but I wish they did more. What I am thrilled about are bulbs. Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors was


a Victorian pleasure now popular again. Vintage hyacinth vases and forcing bowls are sought after on eBay showing how this hobby has come full circle. The easiest bulbs to grow indoors don’t require a chilling period, so they


aren’t technically “forced.” Plant amaryllis, a/k/a hippeastrum, and paper- whites, and in weeks, you’ll see how easy it is to have a blooming indoor garden. While I can’t stand the smell of ‘Ziva’ paperwhites—it’s a personal thing—I do enjoy less smelly varieties like ‘Inbal,’ ‘Ariel’ and ‘Nir.’ You can grow paperwhites on pebbles, but I fi nd potting soil works best. I top the soil with pebbles to keep bulbs stable.


If you want to expand your bulb horizons, hyacinths are easy to force. I


get so excited in late fall when I pull out my hyacinth vases and work on this year’s bulbs. As for amaryllis, you just pot them up in potting soil as soon as you receive them. Water and wait for them to grow and bloom. You may need to prop up your growing bulbs because low light makes them leggy. You can do this with branches and other supports. Some people tie a ribbon around the entire bunch to keep them from falling over. There is also the Cornell alcohol method to grow shorter stems. Search for instruc- tions online.


Order your bulbs in August and let the company know you’re going to force them. That way, they’ll ship them to you early enough for chilling. To force bulbs like hyacinths in Oklahoma’s variable climate, place them in your refrigerator in a paper bag for eight to 10 weeks. One more thing about refrigerators...don’t store fruit in the same refrigerator where you have bulbs. Ethylene gas kills the embryonic fl ower inside the bulb. After 10 weeks, I take out the bulbs and plant them in pots, or put them on vase. Place the hyacinth on vase so its roots on the bulb plate are close to the water, but not touching. After potting up, I then move the bulbs to a cool place indoors in indirect light. I have a broom closet with shelves that is perfect. As roots grow and fi ll the vases, I watch for them to break dormancy. Once their stems are about an inch high, I move them into more light. Don’t overwater bulbs grown in pots. Instead watch for signs of life and then water occasionally.


I love forcing bulbs because I see evidence of growth. However, I do grow tropical plants too. The fastest way to kill any indoor plant is to overwater. That’s why I love terrariums. In a covered terrarium, you can grow any plant that likes high humidity, i.e., tropicals, and you hardly ever need to water them. Because the terrarium has a lid, it waters itself. A win-win if you ask me. Terrariums make excellent gifts especially for people who love to garden, but don’t have the time, or are unable to work outside. Building a terrarium is easy. Get a large clear glass container and cover the bottom with two inches of soil. Choose small tropical plants from your local nursery. Plant two or three in your container depending upon its size. To make things even more attractive, add pebbles or beach glass to the top of the soil. Water, cover it with the lid and enjoy. You can also use open glass containers for terrariums, but I fi nd these work better for orchids or succulents that don’t like humidity.


I hope this information gets you excited about indoor gardening. It’s not all about tropical plants. Try bulbs and terrariums. You too can have a winter garden inside, and spring won’t seem so far away.


DECEMBER 2015


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