Lafayette County Master Gardeners: “Perfect Plants for the Holidays”

Lafayette County Master Gardeners: “Perfect Plants for the Holidays”

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Published on December 7, 2023 |
By Bronwyn Bailey

On the same date every year! How will you decorate for the holidays? What gifts will be meaningful to your friends and family this holiday season? Plants make beautiful, sustainable gifts and complement your holiday decor.

One of my favorite gifts to give and receive is amaryllis (Amaryllis And Hippestrum).

Amaryllis create a stunning centerpiece with brilliantly colored blooms in a wide range of colours. They are readily available and can range in price from $5 to $50. Growing amaryllis indoors requires very little of you during the first winter. The bulb will be ready to flower in early winter, around November, and most stems will produce two to four flowers. You can purchase the bulb alone or purchase a kit that contains everything you need. Easy planting and care instructions. All you have to do is plant the bulb so that the top third is above the soil line. Keep your amaryllis watered, providing sunlight and temperatures between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

The flower stem appears first and may need support to prevent it from breaking. Place it in a cool place to prolong flowering time. When the flowers fade, remove them to conserve the plant’s energy. Once the last flower has died, remove the stem at the top of the bulb. The amaryllis will now enter the renewal phase. The bulb is depleted of minerals after flowering, so your attention is required when the bulb begins the re-flowering process.

Continue to care for the leaves until spring as you would any houseplant, avoiding overwatering. Once the flowers disappear, the amaryllis plant enters the growth phase, where it begins to store energy for next year’s bloom. Give the plant plenty of sunlight and water twice a week. While growing amaryllis indoors, you should fertilize the plant every two to three weeks. Ensuring there is enough sunlight, water and fertilizer during this period is key to the return of your amaryllis.

Once danger of frost has passed, acclimate the plant to the outdoors by exposing it to indirect sunlight for increasing periods of time. Once your bulb is set, plant it in a prepared bed and grow it over the summer. Alternatively, you can leave the plant in the pot, but continue to fertilize it twice a month. You may lose some leaves during this transition period, but new leaves will grow back. The plant should receive morning sun, avoiding afternoon sunlight.

If you want your amaryllis to bloom during the holidays, you should usually bring the plant back indoors by mid-August. Once you bring the plant indoors, place it in a cool place at 50 to 60 degrees F and stop watering the amaryllis. Once the leaves die, move them to a dark place for their rest period. I usually remove the bulb from the soil before storing it for its resting period. Keep an eye on the bulb, and when you see the tip of the new flower stem, it’s time to prepare for renewed amaryllis blooms. Move the bulb to a warmer location for three weeks. This encourages leaves and stems to develop simultaneously. Repot the bulb in fresh (but not too deep) soil and place it in a sunny location.

Some people prefer to purchase prepared bulbs each season to eliminate the timeline needed to produce the bulb’s re-flowering. Purchased bulbs can be grown in soil (as detailed above) or water. The main thing to keep in mind when growing amaryllis in water is to not allow the bulb itself to come into contact with water, as this will promote rotting. Bulbs grown hydroponically cannot remain that way after the initial flowering stage. If you plan to save your bulb for the following year, it is recommended to use soil. For those who prefer a hydroponic medium, all you need is an amaryllis bulb, a vase or jar with a narrow neck (smaller than the bulb), and a water tank. Some sets include the vase and lamp. Remove any brown, dry roots, then place the bulb with the roots facing the water. The water should remain about 1 inch below the base of the bulb. Continue adding water to keep the roots moist and the bulb dry and change the water in the jar weekly. Place the jar in a sunny window where the temperature remains 60 to 75 degrees. Within two to four weeks, you should begin to notice small shoots emerging from the top of the amaryllis bulb. You should also see more root growth within the water. Rotate the vase as you would any houseplant to promote even growth. However, once the flowers fade, you will either need to transplant the amaryllis into soil to continue growing or you can simply compost or dispose of the bulb.

The last option for growing amaryllis is to purchase a waxed bulb from a florist. Wax bulb does not require soil or water, but would not be ideal for planting for re-flowering.

Read more at: Pacific Bulb Society or Gardening Know How

Waxed Amaryllis – Waxed Amaryllis bulb does not need watering to produce beautiful, care-free flowers. (Michigan State University Photo/Gary Bachman)
Red amaryllis in a vase with Christmas decorations

Tags: Amaryllis, Bronwyn Bailey, Lafayette County, Mississippi Master Gardeners, Oxford

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