Categorized | Opinion

Deck the hall with Amaryllis

By Margie Densford

The exquisite Amaryllis is a universal holiday favorite. It’s said to be one of the easiest flowering bulbs to bring to bloom.

I received two bulb kits for Christmas last year and enjoyed watching them grow during the otherwise uneventful winter gardening months. If you’d like to grow these strapping bulbs for a stunning display or give them as gifts, the process is a simple one.

Step one is to get crackin’! I say this for two reasons. Once Amaryllis bulbs become available there’s a short window before they sell out. Furthermore, it takes six to eight weeks to go from bulb to bloom once they’re planted indoors. So, if you decide to use them, you’d better get a move on.

How do you choose your bulbs? A couple of options are available. Individual bulbs can be purchased from bins at local nurseries and garden centers, mail order catalogs like White Flower Farm, Jackson & Perkins, and Harry & David, or reputable internet sites. Kits can also be purchased at an affordable price. Inside these kits you’ll find, a bulb or bulbs, planting medium and a container. You decide which option fits your needs and experience.

The assortment of amaryllis bulbs is almost endless. You can easily find solid shades of red, white, salmon, orange, and pink. Many other varieties have striped and multicolored petals, usually combining shades of pink or red with white. Speaking of petals, Amaryllis blooms can be found in singles, doubles or the luxurious ruffled specimens. I even found a miniature called Jade Serpent that blooms an exquisite pale green in 34 days. This South African cultivar only reaches 10 inches in height with an unusual seven to eight blooms per plant.

Once you have chosen the type of Amaryllis you want to grow, it’s time to think about the kind of vessel you want to use to showcase your bulb. Even if you select a kit you don’t necessarily have to use the container that comes with it. I’ve seen containers made of everything from woven baskets and assorted metals to ceramic and glass. Whatever you use should have a drainage hole and be approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb. The real magic doesn’t begin, however, until the bulb is planted.

Now for the final step, it’s time to pot up that bulb. I found it suggested that the base and roots of the bulb should be placed in lukewarm water for a few hours. Next, place a small amount of good, well-drained, potting soil in the bottom of the container and center the bulb in the middle. Then add additional potting soil and firm it around the roots and bulb to one inch from the rim.

The upper one-half of the bulb should remain above the soil. Then water well and place it in a warm (70 to 75 F) spot. Keep soil moist but not wet and fertilize every two to four weeks with a liquid fertilizer. As the flower stalk grows, turn the pot each day to keep it growing straight. To get your large, fanciful blooms standing at attention, think about picking up or ordering some Amaryllis stakes.

Now as an added bonus I’m going to share the steps to recycling your bulb to bloom next December. When the flower fades cut it from the stem, and when the stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb. Continue to water and fertilize throughout the summer, or for at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. In September cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil. Clean the bulb and place it in a cool (40-50 F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator (away from apples) for a minimum of 6 weeks. Last but not least remember to plant your bulbs 8 weeks before you want them to bloom.

Potted Amaryllis bulb displays, whether creatively combined or bought in a kit, make a great holiday centerpiece or an eye-catching accent to a sideboard or coffee table. Match your décor and find one or several of these spectacular specimens to brighten your home this holiday season.

November garden tips:

1. If leaf covering is light, mow leaves and return them to the soil as nutrients.

2. Set the mower lower than usual.

3. Plant fall bulbs.

4. Cut Chrysanthemum stems to 2-3 inches from the soil after flowering.

5. Mist houseplants and place pots on pebble filled trays of water for humidity and moisture.

Garden opportunities: 

Oct. 25-‘The Family Plot: Gardening in the Mid-South’ with Chris Cooper and guests on WKNO (Thurs. 8:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.)

Oct. 27-City Beautiful’s City-wide Litter Pickup (T-shirts and lunch for a volunteers) Aycock Park (Sat. 8:30 a.m.)

Oct. 28-Daffodil Society and Dixon Gardens host a Daffodil lecture by Justin Stelter (Sun. 2 p.m.)

Now-Nov. 25-Pumpkin Harvest Display-Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, Jackson TN

Nov. 3-Daffodil Bulb Sale (40 varieties) Dixon Gallery and Garden (Sat. 9 a.m.-2 p.m.)

Margie Densford is a Master Gardener, a member of the Millington City Beautiful Commission, and a member of The Garden Club of Rosemark, a member of the National and Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs.

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