Home & Garden: Amaryllis, a holiday gift
Free Press Gardening Columnist
The amaryllis, grown for its large blossoms, is a beautiful holiday plant. Legend tells us this flower is the result of a shy, timid maiden called Amaryllis who attempted to gain the attention of one she loved. Standing before the door to his home, she pierced her heart with a golden arrow shedding her blood to prove her love. When her chosen Alteo opened the door to his abode he discovered a beautiful crimson flower arising from Amaryllis’s blood.
Instead of following Amaryllis’s example when trying to gain someone’s love, why not give them an amaryllis instead.
Blooming for several weeks, this plant adds beauty and fragrance to any home. A product of the Netherlands and South Africa, different cultivars with blooms of red, pink, salmon, white, orange, and lemon; or combinations of white and red or white and pink are available. One cultivar of Amaryllis even has a green blossom — yuck.
When purchasing a bulb for forcing, keep in mind the number of flower stalks produced depends on the size of the bulb. The larger bulbs produce the greatest number of stalks.
The bulb should be planted as soon as possible. Dip the bulb in a general purpose fungicide prior to planting to help control disease problems. If you need to store the bulb for any length of time, be sure to keep it at a temperature of 55 to 60 degrees.
Plant the bulb with the nose above the rim of the pot in a well‑drained sterilized planting mix having a pH of 6.0 to 6.5; at least one‑third of the bulb should be out of the soil. Normally only one bulb is planted in each 5 1/2 or 6 inch pot.
After planting, water thoroughly with tepid water. From then on, keep the soil only slightly moist. Over-watering is the biggest cause of failure to bloom. Fertilizing once a month during blossom time is helpful, but not recommended during the flower stalk development phase.
The amaryllis is a tropical plant and consequently is best forced at a temperature between 63 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the temperature the faster the flower stalk will develop. If planning on having these plants in bloom at a specific time, keep in mind that the average forcing time until bloom is three to five weeks depending on the cultivar and forcing conditions. During this forcing period the plant should be placed in a site having low to medium light intensity. Do not expose these developing plants to full sun.
The cold, tender paperwhite narcissus should be planted immediately upon purchase. As with the amaryllis, the length of time it takes the paperwhite narcissus to bloom is dependent on the forcing temperature. Paperwhites are modern hybrids of the European narcissus, and they’re very easy to force indoors — simply nestle them in a dish of pebbles filled with water up to the bottom of the bulbs. Or you can grow them in soil inside a regular flowerpot that has a drain hole.
Paperwhites are very fragrant, and various varieties have different strengths of intensity. Stagger the blooming times by planting paperwhites two weeks apart and you can have the smell of springtime in your home all winter!
Tulips as well as crocus, hyacinth, muscari and bulbous iris also can be forced at this time. Many of these plants have an optimal number of weeks of cold storage treatment required before they are ready to bloom. Paperwhites do not require this cold treatment. Some cultivars of tulips have an optimal cold treatment period of 21 weeks, an awful long time for most gardeners to wait for a bulb to bloom. Pre-cooled bulbs and corms, however, can be purchased from some sources. These are ready to plant.
Free Press columnist Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.
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