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winter house plants - amaryllis


It's hard to think of paperwhite narcissus and even amaryllis as true houseplants.We enjoy them in the winter for their absolute ease of growing and the fact that they add glorious color and in the case of paperwhites, sweet perfume, to our homes.

Absolute ease of growing....well, maybe. Some folks are stumped by amaryllis, so let's review that. First they are sold more or less 'prepackaged'.... in a spiffy, eye-catching box with "everything you need" which is the bulb and a pot and either a bag of potting mix (mostly peat) or a pellet of potting material that one must rehydrate. Often the pot has no drainage hole. We need to fix all of this.

First make a hole in the pot. Depending on how firm the plastic is you can 1. either make several holes with the point of a knife or 2. heat a large nail over a flame (by holding the knife in a pair of pliars and holding the pliars with a hotpad) or 3. using an electric drill to make the holes. Whatever you do, make the holes from the inside of the pot so that the base of the pot is supported as you make the holes.

If you got a bag of 'soil' dump it into a container and add water and work it with your hands so it is well and thoroughly moistened. 

The amaryllis bulb will want to be situated like this: the tip of the bulb should rise above the pot just an inch or so. The potting soil only wants to cover the bottom  HALF of the bulb. 

Add the potting mix to the empty pot checking from time to time to make sure that the bulb is well seated in the mix, the potting mix comes only halfway up the bulb, and the tip of the bulb is about an inch above the rim of the pot.

Now, put it in a sunny location and growth should begin almost at once. Turn the pot daily because the bloom stems love to reach for the sun. You may have to support the bloom stem if it becomes heavy. Leaf blades will appear and soon the plant will flower.

 

Enjoy it greatly. After all the buds have bloomed and faded, cut the bloom stem back to 1 inch or so. Continue to water the plant (in the sink, let the water drain from the pot) regularly (more or less once a week.)

No need to fertilize. Enjoy the foliage until you are done with it. Take the pot with the plant inside it to a cool, dark room or the basement or garage (if it won't freeze) and water less often and in less amount. Come spring, move the pot with the plant intact to an area that is protected and shady. That can be a porch, a potting shed or under shrubs. Gently remove about 1/3 of the potting mix (with a spoon) and replace that with new mix.

Let it rest over the summer, protecting it from great heat or exposure to the sun.  You may get another bloom. Some of the leaves may die - all leaves may dry up. In August start watering again on a regular schedule, bring them in when the nights get cool, keep watering, and the cycle should repeat.



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