Another holiday season plant gift,
the Amaryllis

Sharon Lance
Adams County Master Gardener

Another great gift that can be purchased, rather inexpensively, for the holidays is an Amaryllis. The botanical name for this plant is Hippeastrum, which means horse star, a reference to the massive size of the starry six-pointed blooms, which can reach 8 to 10 inches in diameter. The plant provides 3 to 4 flowers that can bloom at one time atop a thick 1 to 2 foot stem.

An Amaryllis grows from a bulb and the larger the bulb the larger the flower the plant will produce. Usually, you will pay a little more for the larger flower bulb. Most Amaryllis sold around the Christmas holidays are sold pre-potted. What that means is the Amaryllis bulb comes in a container already filled with professional potting soil, a plastic pot and most times will include a saucer to provide good drainage. Also, easy-to-grow instructions are usually printed on the box. (How easy and a great gift for any age.)

When potted, if done correctly, an amaryllis bulb should be planted about half way out of the soil, or another way to look at this is to say the bulb is planted only half way in the soil, however you word it, you get the picture. Water until excess drains out, using lukewarm water. Too much water over several days can rot the bulb. Also, donít be discouraged if your plant doesnít start to grow after a couple days or a week, because they seem to have minds of their own, but grow it will.

Set plant in a warm well lighted to sunny area, but if near a window where the temperature at night will drop below 60 degrees, move the plant to a warmer spot for the night. Once the stalk emerges from the bulb it is interesting to watch it reach its full height and then produce beautiful colored blooms that come in colors such as white, coral, pink, and red and that can bloom for up to a month.

Once the flower scapes appear begin giving the plant a weak feeding of fertilizer weekly. The Amaryllis requires good lighting but I keep mine out of the sun once they have bloomed and set it in a little cooler location; this helps to keep the flowers fresher, longer. Usually, as the first flowers start to fade, (they can be removed with a razor blade or sharp knife) the bulb sends out a second large stalk.

Additionally, bulbs can last for many years and propagate themselves by sending out a basal offset, which is a small bulb that grows alongside the parent plant, so now you have two plants. This time of year the plant is available for purchase from many sources such as garden centers, home improvement, discount, grocery stores as well as specialty garden supply companies found on the Internet.

I recently purchased several pre-potted Amaryllis plants for holiday gifts: Red Lion (deep red), Star of Holland (red with white centers) Apple Blossom (pink/coral) and Christmas Gift (white). I plan to give an Amaryllis to my Aunt who lives in Ohio and I hope she will be able to enjoy the brilliant color/size of this plant while she recovers from surgery and is house bound at a time in Cleveland when there will probably be snow, snow, and more snow. Of course, I kept a few of the Amaryllis pre-potted plants for myself and will stagger their bloom period over the next couple of months to enjoy during the winter months.

In summary, consider the following easy and helpful hints for successfully growing your pre-potted Amaryllis: temperature: needs bright light and warmth to encourage growth. Humidity: is undemanding. Watering and feeding: initially water bulb/soil thoroughly and then water moderately so as not to rot the bulb. Feed regularly once flower scapes appear and stop feeding during the resting period. Also, to sustain the flowers after they bloom, keep out of direct sun and in a cool place. See, what a simple and easy way to add color and beauty to your home, or someone else during and after the holidays. My hope is that you enjoy your holiday season, whatever you bloom - plants, love, peace, joy and/or happiness.

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