No, I’m not jumping the gun here, promoting Christmas trees and wreaths when the Halloween pumpkin has barely hit the compost bin. What I am talking about is holiday plants that will brighten up the indoors, now that true cold weather has turned the outdoors dreary, with no late blossoms, no colorful autumn leaves, just sere grasses and branches. This time of year, there are many choices for inexpensive plants — topiaries like rosemary shaped into Christmas trees or ivy trained around rings, cyclamen and Christmas cactus, poinsettia, holly and azalea — all of them easily available at supermarkets and nursery centers.

Paperwhite bulbs are also plentiful right now, for those who love their delicate white blooms in combination with other greens. Since paperwhites can take up to six weeks to bloom, starting them now will give you flowers for Christmas. They couldn’t be easier to grow. All that’s needed is a vase or low dish, river rocks or aquarium pebbles (unless you’re lucky enough to be walking a beach where stones are available for the taking) and the bulbs. Use half of your chosen stones to line the bottom of the container. This elevates the bulbs from the bottom, giving the roots room to grow. Stand the bulbs up on the rocks, setting them in so they don’t topple over. Then snug them in place by adding the rest of your stones around them, leaving the tops of the bulbs exposed. Then add water until the bases of the bulbs are submerged.

If you want to give these fragrant bulbs as a gift, you can get them all potted up in the vase or dish and add a note advising the recipient to add water when ready to start them growing. Or you can get them started growing and let the recipient enjoy watching the stalks grow and eventually flower.

The other bulbs that have become associated with the holidays are amaryllis. Unlike the understated paperwhites, amaryllis are real showpieces whose bulbs start off slowly, taking their time before growing tall and unfurling their huge flowers. If you invest in a high-quality bulb, three or four massive florets will eventually emerge from the top of each sturdy stem. The blossoms, once primarily red, pink and white in color, now include shades of wine, deep rose, bright orange, apricot, salmon, mauve, green and bi-colors.

If growing or giving an amaryllis bulb is enjoyable, imagine how spectacular it would be to plant three of these bulbs in a pot. It takes amaryllis to a whole new level. Six to nine stems can produce a total of 24 to 36 flowers, ensuring three weeks of bloom, and with so many stems, you can even cut a few from the pot to put in a vase.

Typically, amaryllis bulbs bloom about eight to 12 weeks after planting. Once planted and watered in, they may take three to eight weeks to produce their first stems, so if you pot some up now, you won’t have blooms for the holidays, but they’ll be well on their way when the New Year rolls around. Fortunately, single forced amaryllis can be bought if you want to enjoy them during this festive season. To plant up three bulbs for keeping or giving, you’ll need a broad, shallow pot with at least one drainage hole in the bottom. The pot should be around 7 inches deep by 11 inches in diameter, as amaryllis roots are thick and fleshy but don’t need much extra growing room. Place the base and roots of the bulbs in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting. While they soak, fill your container about a third of the way with some good potting soil. Place the three bulbs close together but not touching, approximately an inch and a half apart. Position each bulb so the bottom two-thirds will be buried, leaving the top third above the soil surface, essentially leaving the bulbs’ shoulders bare. Add potting soil around and between the bulbs, tamping to seat the bulbs securely. Don’t fill the pot to the top; leave space below the rim for watering. To start your bulbs out, put the pot in a sink, water, then let excess water drain out. Water sparingly, when soil is dry to the touch, while you wait for stems to appear. Once growth starts, water as needed to keep the soil damp, not soggy.