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Amaryllis for Winter Bloom

by Carl Wilson

Amaryllis produce unforgettable flowers. The massive 8 inch blooms can be yours to enjoy for the holidays if you buy plants that have begun leaf growth in early November. They are often sold in bud or bloom throughout the winter.

Amaryllis is easy to grow and is often sold pre-planted. Bulbs are nearly the size of a grapefruit and the larger the bulb, the larger the flowers. They come in a loose planting mix in pots only slightly larger than the bulb itself. The bulb should be positioned halfway out of the soil.

To start, water thoroughly, allow to drain and don't water again until growth begins. Once growth is visible, put plants on a routine. Keep soil moderately moist, provide a minimum of one-half day of bright light, and fertilize once a month. Stems grow rapidly to 12-24 inches and will produce a sequence of blooms that last 3 to 4 weeks.

After flowering, water the plant as a houseplant for the remainder of the winter. Their strap-like leaves make an interesting accent plant. In early September stop watering. Cut foliage once it has dried and let the bulb rest for at least a month before starting the bloom cycle. Trigger growth by washing an inch or two of the old surface soil away, then replenish with fresh soil and water. Bulbs need complete repotting after three or four years.

Amaryllis won't replace poinsettias as the Christmas plant but they do make a spectacular holiday decoration. Many varieties are available in colors including pink, orange, peach red, white and bi-colors. Some are pictured here. Bulbs identified only by color are seed propagated and likely won't produce the superior flowers of the bulbs or potted plants sold under a variety name.

Photo credit: 'Charisma' amaryllis, 'White Nymph' amaryllis, 'Cherry Nymph' amaryllis, 'Grand Cru' amaryllis— all Carl Wilson

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Updated Saturday, September 25, 2010