Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Christmas Plants

Last week I blogged about poinsettias, probably the most iconic of Christmas plants, but there are other plants that come into bloom during the dark days of winter and amaryllis is one.

When selecting amaryllis bulbs, big actually is better. The bigger the bulb, the more stored energy, the bigger the bloom or blooms. Use a heavy container, since the full grown amaryllis can get rather top heavy. The container should be large enough to hold the bulb and a small space for a stake to be slid down beside the bulb but no larger. Plant in a good potting soil, burying the bulb so that only the top 1/3 is exposed. Water thoroughly but don’t let them get soggy. Within 4-8 weeks you will have blooms. Keeping the plant in a cool room will prolong the bloom period. A warmer room will accelerate blooming.

Amaryllis plants are easy to keep for the next year and as the bulb matures the blooms will only get bigger and better. Just follow these simple steps: Once the flowers have faded, remove the flower stalks but leave the leaves. Just as with our spring bulbs, this is how the plant replenishes the energy needed to produce blooms the following year. Fertilize with a general purpose house plant fertilizer on a regular basis. Choose a fertilizer that has a low first number (nitrogen) and higher second and third numbers (phosphorus and potassium.) You can also set the plants outside during the summer in a spot that gets afternoon shade. Leave the bulbs in their container as they do like being somewhat root bound.

Assuming you want the plant to rebloom at Christmas, prepare the plant for a dormant period. Stop fertilizing and reduce watering in August. After a few weeks, stop watering altogether. After the leaves have died back, remove them and place the container in a dark, cool place for 6-8 weeks.

In November, bring the plant back out to a warm, bright room and begin watering again. Within 4-8 weeks you should have blooms. Rotate the plant so that the stem grows straight as they have a tendency to grow towards light. You may have to stake it as well.
There are several reasons the bulb may not rebloom the second year including not enough dormant time, or leaves were removed before the plant stored enough energy over the summer. In this case make sure to let the plant get enough sun and fertilizer during the actively growing months to let it store enough energy to bloom. When you do need to repot, you may notice little bulblets. You can plant these and follow the above directions, but amaryllis bulbs take several years to get big enough to bloom, but it will be worth it!

Just to let you know I will be discussing plants for Christmas on the Mike Nowak show on WGN on Sunday, December 16. Be sure to tune in.

1 comment:

April said...

This has been a flower I have always been afraid to try. After reading this article, I just might try it this coming winter!