Aiken Master Gardeners: Amaryllis Light Up the Holiday Season | Features

Aiken Master Gardeners: Amaryllis Light Up the Holiday Season |  Features

At a recent Aiken Master Gardener Lunch Box presentation, I purchased three large amaryllis bulbs in white, red and pink. Every Christmas, I love watching the amaryllis bulbs send up flower stalks. The name Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amariso, which means “sparkle.” These beautiful plants are sure to add vibrant color to the holiday sparkle.

Typically, amaryllis bulbs bloom by Christmas if planted in November, although amaryllis have their own mind and flowering schedules. My three lamps illustrate this contrast. One opened in early December, the second sent out stems while the third was barely starting to show any green at all. My three bulbs will spread holiday cheer over an extended season.

My father grew amaryllis. He planted his bulbs in his vegetable garden next to pumpkins and berries. For years, I could go out in his garden and pull out all the amaryllis I wanted. Now I wish I had taken advantage of this privilege better. Amaryllis bulbs are not cheap, but they are undoubtedly among the most spectacular flowers. Its enormous, lily-like blooms are well worth the initial cost, and it’s an investment that lasts. Every Christmas I bring back a few amaryllis bulbs, and in the spring I plant them in my garden where they bloom again and again.

I’ve learned from my Master Gardener Lunch Box providers that it’s essential to start with healthy bulbs. It’s also important to avoid using potting soil that retains moisture because amaryllis bulbs do best with less moisture. I have lost bulbs in the past to rot because I over-watered them.

This season, I’m trying something new. I don’t use any soil at all, just the base of a Christmas wreath to raise the bulbs above a shallow level of water. Containers should be chosen to support stems up to 36 inches tall. I found the perfect glass containers at a local thrift store. After placing the bulbs with the top of the bulb exposed, I located them where they could receive at least four hours of bright light and where the temperature remained between 60-70 degrees. My advice: Be patient, but rotate the bulbs once a week, especially when the stems appear.

Once the amaryllis have completed their holiday blooms, and spring temperatures are reliably frost-free, I will add these bulbs to the expanding amaryllis bed to allow the foliage to grow. I may see a second bloom in late spring. After amaryllis bloom outdoors, they often form seed pods that can be harvested, and these new seedlings will eventually form small bulbs. Admittedly, a small amaryllis bulb goes through a long period of development – ​​about five years – before it reaches the bulb size that supports new blooms, but it’s exciting to watch a flat of tiny bulbs increasing in size every year.

I also keep an eye out for leftover bulbs in garden centers after Christmas, where bulbs can be purchased on sale. A cascade of amaryllis blooms indoors will add to my Christmas sparkle and will also brighten up the wintery gray days of January until the spring daffodils begin to bloom.

The Aiken Master Gardener Association (AMGA) Lunchbox Series will resume in February. Look for AMGA’s horticultural Christmas tree entry at the Aiken Visitor Center and Train Museum. Voting for the winner continues at the museum until December 16, and the winner will be announced on December 18. Happy birthday from AMGA!

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