Keep Amaryllis Thriving – Milford Orange Times

Keep Amaryllis Thriving – Milford Orange Times

By Pat Dry
Garden spot

Pat dry

Did you know that your amaryllis can bloom again with little care or feeding? I left a “spent” bulb on my basement workbench over the summer and was surprised by new growth a few weeks ago. I brought it upstairs to my plant rack, and within a few weeks it was back in bloom.

Amaryllis are native to Africa and were brought to Europe in the 18th century. Some of these native bulbs have flowered for up to 75 years, so their second year of flowering shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, most of the bulbs we buy now are native to Central and South America; They are hybrids without that long history.

Your first step to having long-lasting flowers is to purchase a healthy bulb. Choose the largest bulb available for the specific variety, as larger bulbs will produce more flowers. Make sure the bulb is firm and dry; If it feels “squishy” when you gently squeeze it, it likely has mold, decay, or some other infection. You may see a branch growing from the base. If so, divide them and plant them separately.

When planting the bulb, choose a pot that is no more than an inch wide and about twice as long as it is tall. You will have plenty of room for roots to grow while leaving the bulb slightly bound by the root. Make sure the pot has good drainage so the bulb doesn’t rot. Fill the pot about halfway with sterilized potting medium, burying the bulb’s roots if there are any, then gently pack the soil around the bulb, leaving about the top third of the bulb exposed. Water it well and place it in a sunny place.

Continue watering the bulb when the top several inches of soil feel dry. You should also feed it with semi-strong plant food and leave it in full sun until the sprouts appear. Once sprouts appear, move them into indirect light and enjoy the beautiful flowers.

In order for the bulb to bloom again, cut the flower, and leave the stem until it turns yellow. This allows the green stem to enhance photosynthesis and store energy in the bulb for new blooms. Once the stem turns yellow, cut it off and leave the bulb dormant (like my bulb in the basement) or continue feeding and watering it. You may not get a rebloom the first year if the bulb doesn’t store enough energy to create new blooms, but it should bloom the following year.

If you choose to leave the bulb dormant, leave the bulb in the dark for eight to 12 weeks and do not water it. After the dormant period, move the pot to a sunny location and begin watering and fertilizing it. You’ll have a rebellion to enjoy in four to six weeks. Happy winter gardening.

Pat Dry is past president of the Garden Club of Orange and a master gardener.

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