Amaryllis is perfect holiday gift

Published 8:18 am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The amaryllis has been described as a cheerful flower with many colors to choose from. It is the perfect anytime gift, especially now during holidays.

The blooms are trumpet-shaped with striking colors in a variety of reds, pinks, white and salmon, and can be grown outside in the spring as well as a favorite spot in your home for the coming holiday.

To plant your amaryllis, choose a container with drainage holes and about two inches larger in diameter than the bulb. It should be several inches deeper than the roots, adding about one inch of small pebbles with some loose potting mix (one inch or so), placing the bulb gently in the pot and surrounding it with additional mix. Leave the top third of the bulb exposed, water, and gently press down to secure the bulb and eliminate air pockets. Water lightly until new growth starts, then water often and feed a liquid organic fertilizer every seven to 10 days until the color begins to show in the blossom bud through the sheath. A warm spot with indirect light is perfect. After blooming starts, a move to a cooler light area (not bright) will extend the flowering.

When the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalk close to the bulb, place in a sunny window and water regularly. You may keep the plant inside all year feeding every 2-3 weeks with liquid seaweed, fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer.

After frost, your amaryllis can be placed outside in the pot or removed to grow in the open ground. Gradually reduce water in late summer to encourage dormancy and place the amaryllis in a cool dark place for six to eight weeks. Do not water. After a few months rest, replace the top few inches of the soil and, re-pot (if need be) and begin again.

Amaryllis bulbs can be obtained in a ready-to-plant package that includes the pot, or if you prefer, the bare bulbs are available as well. The larger bulbs will be a little more costly, but produce more flower stalks, and are spectacular.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to one and all.

Gwen Holt is a master gardener from Isle of Wight. Her e-mail address is Virginia Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training. As an educational program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Master Gardeners bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.