Amaryllis glory takes planning

Lush bulb, treated properly, will brighten home for holidays and beyond

November 19, 2006|By Kathy Van Mullekom | Kathy Van Mullekom,DAILY PRESS

Now is time to pot up amaryllis bulbs so you have a succession of flowers beginning the next few weeks - just in time for your holiday decorating. To get a steady stream of flowers until spring, stagger the times you plant bulbs in decorative containers that will brighten your indoor decor.

"It may be surprising to learn that amaryllis varieties don't all come to flower in the same time frame," says Sally Ferguson with the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in Vermont.

"Some varieties flower very quickly in around four to six weeks. Some can take as long as nine to 12 weeks to flower, while still others fall between at seven to 10 weeks."

Planting amaryllis is easy. They are normally planted in small pots that are just a bit larger around than the bulb is. A too-large pot is not good for the bulb because it prefers "crowded conditions."

First, put a layer of heavy potting soil - soil-sand mixes are ideal - in the bottom of the pot, then pop in the bulb.

Fill in with soil up to where the bulb's "shoulders" taper inward. The upper shoulders and neck of the bulb are left exposed. The pot should be watered well and the soil kept barely moist until growth begins. After the green shoot appears, water regularly to keep the soil moist - but not soggy, advises Ferguson. Move the pot to a sunny spot. Access to good sunlight during the growing phase is important to keep the plant from stretching in search of light; stretching for light results in already tall stems growing even taller.

Amaryllis can also be planted without soil. Like most bulbs, all of the food the plant needs is in the starchy material inside. That food supply is what makes the bulb so fat. Substitute pebbles, stones or sand, making sure to add enough around the sides to give the bulb sufficient upright support. When you add water, add just enough so that it nearly reaches, but doesn't touch, the bottom of the bulb.

"The Dutch like to say, `close enough so the roots can smell the water,'" says Ferguson.

Position the bulbs in the pebbles or sand poised above the water level so the roots grow down to meet the water. Once growth begins, place the plant where it receives some sun.

One is good, more is better. A single amaryllis bulb produces multiple stems, each with numerous flowers. It takes only one bulb to give you a good display, but grouping several together is spectacular.

Try planting two, three or even five bulbs "shoulder to shoulder" in a wide decorative container. The pot doesn't need to be deep. Because each bulb produces several stems in succession - and each stem is topped with four to six colorful flowers - this multi-bulb approach creates a pot dense with lots of stems in various stages of development. The effect works best when all the bulbs planted together are the same variety.

Amaryllis bulbs are comeback kids. Most bulbs that are forced to bloom for winter enjoyment have spent their energy by the end of flowering time and can't be made to bloom again.

Amaryllis is an exception. With minimal care, an amaryllis blooms year after year.

"Some people have 40-year-old amaryllis bulbs handed down from their grandmothers," says Ferguson.

Kathy Van Mullekom writes for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.

Blooming times

Here are amaryllis varieties by their bloom times:

Early-season (5-8 weeks to bloom)

Single-flowered: `Orange Sovereign,' `Lucky Strike,' `Apple Blossom,' `Minerva,' `Roma,' `Vera' and `Mount Blanc'

Double-flowered: `Lady Jane,' `Mary Lou,' `Aphrodite' and `Pasadena'

Miniatures: `Donau,' `Scarlet Baby,' `Giraffe,' `Amoretta' and `Pamela'

Mid-season (7-10 weeks to bloom)

Single-flowered: `Red Lion,' `Lemon Lime,' `Liberty,' `Hercules,' `Wonderland,' `Rilona' and `Picotee'

Double-flowered: `Double Record,' `Unique,' `Blossom Peacock' and `White Peacock'

Miniature: `Papillo'

Trumpet (shaped like Easter lily, but smaller): `Pink Floyd'

Late-season (9-12 weeks)

Single-flowered: `Las Vegas,' `Clown,' `Piquant,' `Toronto,' `Vlammenspel,' `Happy Memory' and `Charisma'

Double-flowered: `Promise,' `Dancing Queen,' `Flaming Peacock' and `Andes'

Trumpet: `Amputo' and `Misty'

Where to get amaryllis bulbs

Garden centers nationwide sell the bare bulbs; stores also offer them already potted and in various stages of growth closer to the holidays. An online source is The Amaryllis Bulb Co. at amaryllis.com or call 1-888-966-9866.

[ SOURCE: NETHERLANDS FLOWER BULB INFORMATION CENTER, WWW.BULB.COM]

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