A sign of the holidays is the amaryllis bulb for sale in retail stores. Bold and beautiful, the huge, showy flowers of hybrid amaryllis (Hippeastrum) raise spirits during the cold, gray days of winter. These large, tender bulbs produce spectacular flowers that can be up to 6 inches across in colors of reds, oranges, pinks, white, yellows, and bicolor on thick stalks that can rise 24 inches high. They will rebloom year after year with only minimal care.
Native to tropical Chile and Peru, amaryllis bloom in their native lands from February to April. The leaves grow during spring and summer. With cooler fall temperatures and dry soil, the bulb goes dormant until December or January. Once you understand the amaryllis’ natural growth cycle, you can mimic it to bring your bulb into bloom year after year.
If you want the bulb to rebloom in the winter months, trim the stalk and store it in a cool place until after spring frosts. Move bulbs outdoors gradually and keep them moist. Leaves will grow during the summer than yellow in the fall. Stop watering when the foliage has died back. Bring the bulb indoors before the first fall frost and store in a cool place for 8 to 10 weeks. When you see the tip of new growth, repeat the cycle of warmth and water.
Retired entomologist and local gardener “Woody” Woodiel has mastered the reblooming of this unique bulb in our area. After blooming, he cuts back the stalk and leaves a couple of inches above the neck of the bulb. Woody says “remove the bulb from its pot and shake the soil off. Store on its side in a cool place in the basement for 3 months.” Once the bulb has this dormant period it is ready for another season of bloom. Repot and put in a sunny spot indoors in the cooler months or outside in the summer. Add only a small amount of water. Woody keeps bulbs blooming year-round to take to nursing homes and shut-ins.
Often bulbs are sold as kits containing a bulb, an appropriately sized pot, and some growing medium. Set the bulb, pointed end up, high in the pot so the top third is exposed and fill the space between the bulb and the side of the pot with potting mix. Water well after planting then sparingly for 6 to 8 weeks. Voila! The flower stalk will produce two or more blooms. The plant is now top-heavy, and you may need to put the pot into a heavier clay or ceramic pot and stake the stalk.
The Daylily Nursery on Sparta Street imports the bulbs from Peru and dips them in tinted wax. There is a video of the dipping on Daylily Nursery’s Instagram account.
Requiring no water, these no-care beauties are a great gift for gardening or non-gardening friends and family.
This information on the amaryllis is adapted from the free e-newsletter of The National Gardening Association.
TIP OF THE MONTH:
Leave some of the dead stalks and foliage in your garden to house beneficial insects during the winter.
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