With snow on the mountain tops, many people are tempted to purchase new indoor plants to brighten up the home and to get that opportunity to still play in the soil, or potting mix in this case.
With the holiday season upon us, local nurseries and stores have stocked up on the ever popular Christmas cactus plants, poinsettias and bulbs for forcing inside, including one of my favorites: amaryllis. For years, I would order an amaryllis collection in a beautiful basket or pot for my grandmother in southern California. It was one of those gifts that was perfect for someone who did not really need more clutter, but loved flowers. And with the warmer climate of southern California, she would plant the amaryllis outside after they finished blooming.
While we may not be able to grow amaryllis outside in northern Nevada, they are still a wonderful gift or addition to the home. Plus, unlike many other bulbs that are encouraged or forced to bloom indoors, amaryllis can be kept and encouraged to rebloom year after year with very little work.
The flowers come in an extremely wide array of colors, from tangerine orange to vibrant pink and candy cane striped. Breeders in the Netherlands have an intense program of breeding and testing that have produced a wide assortment of colors and flower sizes. You can even find doubles, like the variety ‘Alfresco’ with rippled double white petals, each bulb having the ability to produce multiple stalks of two to three flowers each.
From the point at which you see the leaves first begin to emerge out of the bulb, it will be anywhere from six to ten weeks until they are in full bloom. They prefer temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees, and will bloom faster with warmer locations and ample sunlight. A good practice is to routinely slightly rotate your container to prevent the flower stalks from leaning towards the light.
Care of these beauties is very easy, which makes them wonderful for anyone, no matter their expertise or level of gardening. Containers for the bulbs only need to be slightly larger than the bulb itself. If planting in soil, the top one third of the bulb should be above the soil line, as roots only grow from the bottom, much like a daffodil or an onion. Make sure the bulb has good drainage, as they do not like to be saturated.
If you are placing your bulb in a hurricane glass or vase, place rocks in the bottom but do not submerge the bulb. Keep the water high enough that the roots have moisture, and once the amaryllis is finished blooming, remove the spent flower stalks and plant the bulb in a new container with potting soil. You can maintain the amaryllis as a green house plant for months.
If you are planning on encouraging it to rebloom, it requires a period of dormancy in a cool location for six to eight weeks. Keep the soil dry and the bulb in a dark spot, like a closet or back bedroom with temperatures between 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. After the cold period is finished, bring the pot back into a sunny warm location, water lightly, and wait for growth to begin again.
Wendy Hanson Mazet is the Master Gardener Program coordinator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.