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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The fascinating amaryllis

Do you grow amaryllis during the holiday season? I always buy one or two and I really enjoy watching them grow. It amazes to see the big fat bulb sprout and start to grow rapidly before exploding into a massive bloom. Most amaryllis are sold with the advertisement of being in bloom by Christmas. This has never happened for me and my blooms are always late. This year I decided to order a bulb from the reputable John Scheepers Inc. I selected "Floris Hecker" which is supposed to be "velvety red" and very floriferous. The red ones are my favorite. The bulb arrived much later than I expected and there is no way it will be blooming by Christmas day. That doesn't really matter that much to me because flowers in January are always welcome.

If you have never grown an amaryllis, they are very easy! You can buy them already in a pot or if you choose to pot it up yourself, choose a pot that is only an inch or two larger than the bulb. Plant it so that the neck of the bulb sits out of the soil. Place it in a warm sunny area like a south or west facing window (temperatures in the 70 degree range are ideal). Keep it watered well and it will start to grow. In about seven or ten weeks, you should have blooms. The plant can then be moved to a cooler area, out of direct sun, so that the blooms will last longer. It is advisable to stake the tall stalks so that they won't topple over.

Amaryllis can be saved for next year although I confess I've never had success with this. The bulbs can be planted outdoors in the spring and grown there until fall when they need to be dug up and brought indoors. When the leaves begin to yellow, cut them back and store the bulb in a dark place for six weeks before bringing it back out and starting the cycle over again.

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