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England: Vigilant care can get amaryllis blooming again next Christmas

POSTED: April 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Russ England/For The Times

Amaryllis can be manipulated to bloom at different times and can continue to rebloom for years

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Question: I received a beautiful amaryllis for Christmas. How can I take care of it so it will bloom again next year?Answer: Native to the tropics and subtropics, amaryllis (Hippeastrum species) have been widely hybridized.

As with many plants that grow from bulbs, the time they bloom can be manipulated over a several month period, making them great gifts for Christmas or Easter.

Hybrid amaryllis is usually sold as giant amaryllis or Royal Dutch amaryllis. Named selections are available in various shades of red, pink orange, salmon and white and may be a solid color or variously striped or marked.

The larger amaryllis bulbs will produce two or more flower stalks, each with as many as four blooms up to eight or nine inches across. With proper care, they can continue to rebloom for years.

Where amaryllis is grown outdoors, the flowers bloom in the spring. When grown indoors, they bloom just a few weeks after planting.

Follow some simple steps to maintain your amaryllis from year to year. After the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalks just above the bulb.

Move the plant to a sunny window and water it whenever the soil surface becomes dry. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer once or twice a month.

When all danger of frost is past, begin moving your amaryllis outdoors, gradually exposing it to sunlight and cooler temperatures.

After a week of acclimation, set the still-potted plant in the ground in a mostly sunny location.

Stop feeding your amaryllis in August and bring it indoors before frost. Place it in a cool spot where it receives indirect bright light.

Around December, the leaves should begin to yellow and then gradually drop off. Keep watering occasionally and new flower stalks should appear in a month or two.

When new growth begins, resume feeding and move the plant to a sunny window. New leaves should soon appear, and flowers will follow.

Question: What if I want my amaryllis to rebloom for Christmas?Answer: You can get your amaryllis to rebloom before its natural cycle allows by forcing it into early dormancy. To do this, move it to a cool dry spot early in the fall and stop watering it.

Without water, the foliage will die back and the bulb will begin to go dormant. After a couple of months of dormancy, the bulb should begin to send out a new flower shoot.

At this time, move the plant to a warm, sunny spot and resume regular watering. Leaves and flowers should soon develop.

If you want blooms for Christmas, stop watering the plant in early October. As a general rule, cease watering about 10 to 12 weeks before you want the plant to bloom.

When you force blooms early, they may be somewhat fewer and smaller than if you allowed the plant to complete its natural cycle. However, if you maintain the same cycle each year and fertilize regularly, you should be able to have strong and abundant blooms at whatever time you choose.

Question: Is amaryllis a type of daffodil?Answer: It may be more accurate to say that the daffodil is a type of amaryllis. Botanists place both plants in the family Amaryllidaceae.

Plants belonging to the amaryllis family have a leafless flower stem, strap-shaped leaves and bulb or rhizome rootstocks. Some other examples of this family include lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus), snowdrop (Galanthus), snowflake (Leucojum), spring star flower (Ipheion) and society garlic (Tulbaghia).

Russ England is a Master Gardener trained and certified in horticulture and related areas through by the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Send questions to rhefish@yahoo.com.



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