Winter Paperwhite Narcissus: Paperwhites (N. tazetta papyraccus) produce clusters of small, fragrant white flowers. These are often “forced” into bloom in pots. Those grown in soil save better than those grown in water. Let the foliage die back naturally. Sugars produced by the leaves are stored in the bulbs for next year’s flowers. Once planted, these bulbs bloom very early. Keep an eye on the weather and cut the flowers to bring in before a cold front freezes them. Forced bulbs may not bloom outside the first year.
Christmas Poinsettias: These plants like to be watered but will rot if watered too frequently. Test weekly and water as soon as the soil feels dry. By April, the Christmas poinsettia is losing its attractiveness. This is the time to prune it back to about 8 inches. By May it should be putting out new growth. If you are going to transplant it, put it in highly organic soil in June. Our winters are often too cold to plant outside. Keep it in indirect but bright natural light. Starting in September, it will start putting out flower buds. Start putting the plant in absolute darkness for about 14 hours each evening and night. Then bring it out into light each day. In about two months, the bracts will start showing color. Bracts are modified leaves; the actual flowers are the yellow parts in the center. Once the bracts are grown and colored, you can once again leave the plant out as a decoration.
Easter Lily: Madonna lilies (Lilium candidum) should be planted only one to two inches deep in a sunny location. They will bloom in early spring. The foliage soon dies down and they remain dormant until winter when they produce rosettes of foliage. Easter lilies (L. longiflorum) also make a good perennial for zones 8 -9. They usually bloom by early to mid-May.
Spring Hyacinth: Dutch hyacinths can be planted in the flower bed. These bulbs will divide and grow but will be smaller and have fewer flowers than the original plant. They bloom in early Spring and smell as sweet as they did straight from the florist. Roman hyacinths (native to southern France) will do even better. They make a dependable perennial for zones 7-9. Hothouse hyacinths planted outside may not bloom the first year after planting.
Mother’s Day Azalea: Ellis County soil is too alkaline to suit azaleas. To keep an azalea, pot it up in a container and fertilize with acidic products marked for azaleas. In a container, they may not be winter hardy, so you will need to shelter them in a greenhouse in winter.