Decorating & Design - Flower Arranging

Decorating with festive flowers

Lorraine Flanigan

Follow our guide to holiday decorating with festive flowers, amaryllis and paperwhites.

As much a sign of the season as holly berries and mistletoe, amaryllis and paperwhites add a touch of holiday cheer to windowsills and dinner tables.

Originally from the high Andes regions of Chile and Peru, amaryllis bulbs are now being bred in an amazing range of colours and forms from spidery, lemon-lime blossoms to double, butterfly blooms and giant, velvety red-petaled beauties. But the classics remain some of my favourites – it's hard to surpass the scarlet and red of Naughty Lady‚ the blushing pink of Appleblossom or the pistachio-throated white flowers of Green Goddess.

In the world of paperwhites, traditional types such as the intensely scented grandiflorus, with its flurry of snow-white blossoms, are hard to beat. There's also a look-alike called Ziva‚ that blooms a little earlier than grandiflorus, making it a better choice for last minute holiday decorating.

Nothing could be easier than growing elegant amaryllis and fragrant paperwhites. Selecting a container is the hardest step: it could be a simple terra cotta pot with a single amaryllis and a lacing of moss covering the soil, or a large Oriental cachepot holding a bouquet of paperwhites. Shallow baskets in merry Christmas colours or dramatic black matte also make good containers for paperwhites. Before planting, add a plastic liner to guard against water damage.

Amaryllis need a fairly deep pot to support their height, but one small enough so that the bulb fits snuggly – a 6" pot is ideal for smaller bulbs and 7" is perfect for the larger ones.

While paperwhites will grow in either shallow pans of gravel and water or in soil, amaryllis should be planted in potting soil. Here's how:

Potting amaryllis
1 Before planting, soak the roots of the bulb in water for several hours or overnight, taking care not to dampen the base of the bulb.

2 Fill half of the pot with soil mix (African violet potting mix works well), tamp down gently, then place the bulb root-side down onto the soil. The bulb should fit snuggly into the pot without touching the sides. Add more soil to the pot, leaving the top third of the bulb exposed. Water well.

3 Keep the soil barely moist until the first green shoots appear from the bulb.

4 Place in a bright south, east, or west-facing window, out of direct sunlight.

5 Unless your plant is one of the compact dwarf varieties, it will need support as it grows. Red dogwood twigs and twisted willow branches give good support as well as look attractive.

This article is featured on Fabulous flower arrangements

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