(Not) Learning From My Mistakes

– Posted in: What's up/blooming

Let’s start with the successes.

Christmas cactus

The Christmas cactus is blooming better than it has in years.

I count twelve blooms on it, which is double–maybe triple–what it had last year. I attribute that to following my readers’ advice and summering it outside for the past two years. And I’m pretty sure it’s a bona fide Christmas cactus, because there are no points on its leaves.

The poinsettia my friend gave me is thriving.

It’s not as easy to keep a poinsettia happy as you might think. They don’t like drafts. But they also don’t like it if you keep the wrapper on too long, because they start poisoning themselves with the ethylene gas they give off. They like their soil moist–but not too moist, because then they get root rot. So, yay me for keeping the poinsettia happy.

My clivia is blooming!

I think it’s early for a clivia to bloom. I keep it in a cool room that I rarely go into, so it also doesn’t get watered very frequently. In fact, it’s got one of those glass globes with a long stem, which I filled with water, and the water level hasn’t dropped in weeks. I’m not sure whether that means the clivia doesn’t need water at the moment, or the glass globe thingy doesn’t work. But it worked for my mom before she gave the plant to me. And the clivia is blooming.
plants in window

My ‘Wintersun’ paperwhites got off to a great start.

Wintersun bloom

The first flower was pretty and softly fragrant. I could see swollen buds with the promise of many blooms to come.

bud blast

But instead of blooming, the buds blasted.

Bud blast is just what it looks like–the buds dry up and turn brown and papery. This happened the last time I tried to grow tazetta paperwhites indoors. And I didn’t realize this when I bought them, but the last time I bought paperwhites, it was also ‘Wintersun’.

So what went wrong?

Short answer: I don’t know. Here’s some things I’m considering.

Could it be the variety? If I had realized I had grown ‘Wintersun’ before, I would have chosen a different variety.

I used the alcohol and water method to help reduce their height, which I hadn’t done last time. But lots of other people do that, and their buds don’t blast.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs say that if the paperwhites are too warm, the buds will blast. My kitchen does get warm, but the bulbs were sitting right up against a single pane, old-fashioned window, so I thought they would be cooler than the rest of the room.

I skipped forcing paperwhites for two years because I was so discouraged about this bud-blasting. But I missed growing them, and bought two dozen for this winter. The plan was to start some in time for Thanksgiving–they blasted.

narcissus in mugs

I planted my second batch of bulbs–hopefully to bloom around Christmas–individually in these humorous mugs.

This batch is sitting on my desk, which is pushed up against a door we don’t use that also has a single, uninsulated pane of glass. And my desk is even further from the woodstove than the kitchen, so it’s cooler to begin with. In general, these bulbs are growing more slowly than the previous batch, but one shot up faster than the others (yes, that guy in the middle), had one pretty flower, and then it, too, blasted.


Maybe I’m no good at estimating how much water these bulbs in non-draining containers need. Perhaps I’m putting in too much water or not enough–or alternating between both those things.

I still have some bulbs left, and I’m going to pot these up in potting soil, in a container that drains. The only problem being this container is round, and thus more difficult to place where it will get enough light. I will have to figure out a good location. You can be sure I will let you know if I succeed and these paperwhites bloom. And you’ll probably hear about it if I get bud blast again, because I like sympathy.

Wishing all my readers a joyous holiday season.

Posted for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens. Check it out at May Dreams Gardens.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Scott Trudell December 19, 2018, 1:32 pm

I have never had success growing paperwhites in water/pebbles. I always plant mine in soil using a pot with good drainage. 100% success rate every time!

Beth @ PlantPostings December 18, 2018, 11:14 pm

That Clivia is really pretty, and your other plants are, too. I think I only had Paperwhites one year, and I believe a friend got them started for me. So I don’t have any advice. Good luck going forward. It sounds like you’re on the right track.

commonweeder December 17, 2018, 9:17 am

I am almost ready to totally give up on houseplants. Our new house just does not have much in the way of sunny windows where potted plants can sit. I don’t have a single bloom on my Christmas cactus this year. Not even a bud. Why? Who knows.

Shelly Wilkinson December 16, 2018, 4:54 pm

I’ve never tried paperwhites before, so I have no advice to give there. I love those mugs! So fun. I tried amaryllis this year, and was surprised at how easy they were especially considering they don’t get the best light.

Sandra Lawrence December 16, 2018, 4:08 pm

Oh, blast the Bud Blast Grinch! You definitely have my sympathy! Had the same problem with a variety of late-blooming narcissus every single year because it gets hot so early in Texas, so finally dug up healthy bulbs & plentiful blades & composted them. 🙁
I love paperwhites, too, because of their connection to memories of my grandparents’ garden, but they never bloomed for me either. I now stick to early blooming or tried & true Southern bulbs & then fingers crossed for a long spring. You inspired me to get crocus bulbs this year which I’m going to force after a refrigerated chill period. At least I’ll have a pot of them, hopefully …
I’m not generally a covetous person, but I absolutely covet those fabulously funny face pots from your mom! I wonder who the artist is. Any ID mark on the bottom?

Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening December 16, 2018, 2:18 pm

Your indoor blooms are all so beautiful and sometimes it’s just a bad batch of bulbs. Having bulbs in a closed container is tough as far as watering. I find that watering every other week allows them to dry out in between. Your poinsettia, Christmas cactus and Clivia are all gorgeous, so you’re obviously doing something right!

Arun Goyal December 16, 2018, 2:30 am

Blooms of clivia and cactus are lovely.loved that little Animal miniature pots.
Have a great week ahead.

Lisa December 15, 2018, 5:18 pm

I love your bulbs! And those mugs are great! Did you make them?

Kathy Purdy December 15, 2018, 5:42 pm

No, I found them in my mother’s house and she didn’t want/need them. She is trying to get rid of “stuff”.

Lea @ Lea's Menagerie December 15, 2018, 4:42 pm

Love the cactus and the poinsettia! Wonderful to see the clivia blooming! I have not been able to get mine to bloom for several years now. My house may be too warm. I tried watering it very sparingly last year, and the leaves turned brown! I am thinking of re-potting it in the Spring – it grows well, putting out new sprouts so that the pot is full.
Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!

Kathy Purdy December 15, 2018, 4:55 pm

Maybe try it outside and wait as long as you can before bringing it in?