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Winter Blooms – Dec/Jan2016

Winter Blooms - Dec/Jan2016

Amaryllis is the perfect burst of indoor colour.

Looking for a mid-winter lift? I have the answer, but you will need to plan now for the colourful blooms that Canadians crave each winter. Conveniently, amaryllis bulbs are available at many retailers across the country this time of year.

They are native to South Africa, but now most amaryllises are grown in the Netherlands, and they are one of the easiest bulbs to bring into bloom indoors. For this reason, they are extremely popular and in high demand. Amaryllises are available in various shades of red, white, pink, salmon, striped, multi-coloured and some double-flowering varieties.

I recommend that you select the largest bulbs available. Amaryllises are graded according to the circumference of the bulb, measured at the midriff. A small bulb is about 24 to 26 centimetres and the larger bulbs are 32 to 34 centimetres in circumference. A larger bulb yields more flowers and bigger blooms. A bulb gets bigger as it matures and as it matures it produces blossoms more proficiently.

PLANTING

Select a heavy container with good drainage. When in bloom, an amaryllis can be top-heavy causing the container to fall over. A heavy pot helps to solve this issue, as does an amaryllis stake.

Plant the amaryllis bulb in a quality, soilless potting mix. Plant two-thirds of the bulb in the potting mix and allow the top one-third of the bulb to remain above the soil surface. Take care not to damage the dry roots. Press the soil down firmly to securely set the bulb, and water after planting.

Move the potted bulb to a windowsill with direct sunlight. Heat is necessary to stimulate the development of new growth. The ideal temperature is 22C to 24C. Water it in moderation until the stem appears. Once the leaves and buds appear, water it on a more regular basis. You will be amazed how quickly the stems grow.

Healthy amaryllis bulbs will generally flower in seven to 10 weeks. This will depend upon the amount of sunlight available. During the winter months, growth is slower compared to early spring.

AFTER BLOOMING

Once an amaryllis has finished blooming it requires some attention. Cut the flower stalk back to about five centimetres in height. Allow the leaves to continue to grow for at least five months. Water the plant when the potting mix feels dry.

As the leaves grow they produce energy, which the bulb will store for future blooms. Fertilize regularly with a high-phosphate liquid plant fertilizer.

In late September, cut back on watering and allow the leaves to die back. Cut back the foliage and prepare the bulb for storage.

STORING AMARYLLIS BULBS

Clean the bulb gently with water. Dry the bulb for two weeks at room temperature and then store for about 10 weeks in a cool, dry, dark place. At the end of this storage period, you will need to repot the bulb in fresh potting mix and start the cycle again.

Growing your own amaryllis is a satisfying experience. Consider putting one on your Christmas list, or pick up a few large bulbs and pot them up as gifts. You’ll need to plant them approximately eight weeks before you would like them to bloom.

Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is the Lawn and Garden Expert for Home Hardware. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com