Paperwhites and Bulb Chipping

 Paperwhites in glass

Paperwhites in glass

Hippeastrum in glass

Last night, I put some paperwhite bulbs in a large, etched, glass forcing jar I’ve had for years. Place stones at the bottom of the jar, rest the paperwhites on top, and fill with water to the surface of the stones. Then, stand back. They’ll bloom in about a month. This jar is really a thing of beauty; I don’t remember where I bought it, but it’s a keeper. 

Paperwhite are one of my favorite winter forcing bulbs. I buy them in bulk (I pass on the kits; you never know the condition of the bulbs until you get them home, when it’s too late, and I don’t want the cheap, plastic containers), and plant throughout winter. I water-force them mainly – no soil -which pretty much ruins them for future growth. One year, though, I tossed the old paperwhite bulbs into the woods behind my house, and the following spring, they bloomed out there in the brush. So I never throw them away now; I just toss them into the woods, and see what happens. Same for water-forced hyacinths.

This weekend, I’m going to chip a Hippeastrum bulb. Chipping a bulb is easy business, and it’s a great way to force the bulb to produce offshoots (more bulbs) from the parent bulb.

Take a large, healthy, firm Hippeastrum bulb. Using a sharp knife that has been disinfected, cut into the basal plate in this way: once all the way across the plate, about halfway up into the bulb, then again in the opposite direction, to make a cross. Then, like you’re cutting a cake, cut again to make eighths. You’re not cutting the bulb into pieces, you’re only cutting about halfway up through the length of the bulb. Soak the bulb in a systemic fungicide for about a half hour. Then plant it, and give it a watering. Place in a bright spot.

Soon, the bulblets will emerge from the cut sections, and the parent bulb will die (boo). These small bulblets will grow in size every year until you have about 6 full-sized Hippeastrum bulbs. I recommend planting this chipped parent bulb in a large container, to give the bulblets room to grow. You’ll get some nice strappy, new foliage from all the bulblets as you’re waiting for them to mature. Eventually, if you don’t separate them all out, you’ll have a magnificent grouping of cloned Hippeastrum.

My husband and I and the dogs are heading to Vermont this weekend to skip through the leaves, do some photography, and get some maple syrup and fresh Vermont apples. We’ll also stop at the Vermont Country Store, and a little glass blowing studio we like. As touristy as the VCS is, we have a tradition of stopping in each autumn. It’s all good.

So grateful.


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