Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 27, 2013

DIRT ON GARDENING: Amaryllis is that seasonal ‘pick-me-upper’ plant

Goshen News

---- — Did you buy or receive an Amaryllis bulb as a holiday gift? They are prominent this time of year and may readily be seen at just about any store that sells plants.

An Amaryllis is a striking flower that is normally grown over the holiday season and can be found at grocery outlets, as well as garden centers, throughout the area. The bulbs will be mass displayed in a cube-shaped box approximately 6 or 7 inches on each side. They are offered in a variety of colors and will contain the large bulb, a plastic pot and a potting soil packet to start your project. A heavier pot would be more suitable to prevent tipping when fully grown, so if you have a pot that fits this description and is about the same size in diameter then you might consider using it instead. Just make sure the pot is deep enough and contains drainage holes.

Pots shouldn’t be any larger than half the width of the bulb and deep enough to allow a comfortable fit so as not to crowd the roots. The Amaryllis bulbs enjoy a tight fit with no more than an inch or so between bulb and pot — a 5- to 6-inch pot is normally perfect. Don’t substitute a heavier potting soil as these plants prefer a light, fluffy mix with a fertilizer charge. If your mix doesn’t have this charge, then use a slow release fertilizer placed an inch under the roots when planting. Use a piece of screen or broken pot to prevent soil from seeping out the drainage holes.

Place 1 to 1½ inches of soil in your pot and hold your bulb in the pot to see if the whole neck of the bulb will be exposed above the soil level that will be one inch from the top of your pot. Make certain roots are not cramped and that the neck of the bulb is exposed comfortably above the soil level.

It is recommended to place the bulb in tepid water for several hours before planting, but not more than half way up the bulb. Care should be taken to not get any water on the neck of the bulb that could result in its rotting. Ideally, try watering it from the bottom up with a saucer placed under the pot and leave until completely saturated. Then remove the saucer, drain and don’t water again until dry or green vegetation appears on top, and then only sparingly. Failure to bloom or rotting is primarily caused by overwatering.

Once the spike starts to develop and reaches 12 inches, secure by pushing a support stick carefully into the soil next to the bulb, being diligent to avoid damaging it. Attach a wire double “U” hook to the stake for support, but not around the spike itself. The plant itself may reach 2 feet and more in height so it will become top-heavy when the blooms develop. Once established, continue to water from the base up only to avoid overwatering. Bulbs will normally take six to eight weeks to flower so it will be a welcome sight for the new year. You may find a bargain right now for unsold merchandise that you can still enjoy this winter. Make sure bulbs are firm and not like an old potato.

Bulbs may be planted outdoors in June and lifted in September leaving foliage to die back naturally. Once this occurs, trim back to 4 inches, leaving roots intact and place in a dark cool environment like a basement or somewhere approximately 40 to 50 degrees. Avoid placing in a refrigerator where apples are stored as this will render them sterile.

Can you believe, only 83 days ‘til spring ... sigh?

Tom Yoder is a long-time master gardener who resides in Goshen.