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Amaryllis bulbs offer colorful variety in time for holidays

Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2007

A favorite winter plant around many homes, especially during the holiday season, is the amaryllis. Given as a gift by many, the amaryllis has long been known as the hundred-year bulb, according to a local horticulturist.

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"It lasts forever," said Jenny Addie, of Green Thumb West Nursery and a horticulturist. "They are fabulous."

Because of increased tissue cultivation, the variation of color among amaryllis plants is limitless. Stripes, deep rose, red rose and apple blossom are just a few of the favored variations. Picotee -- a variety that consists of a red edge and pure white bloom -- is also a favorite.

If you want an amaryllis that will bloom during the holidays, purchase your bulb now and be sure the bloom "nose" is just emerging. Then you can expect the plant to bloom in roughly three to four weeks, Addie said.

To force blooming, Addie suggests placing the plant near a heating vent, with the warmth coming from under the bulb.

"Most bulbs, if you force them, are no good the following year, but amaryllis are an exception," she said.

Addie said it is important to plant the bulb about half way into the soil. Each bulb will have one to two bloom stems, with four to five heads on each stem. Once the heads have died, cut the bloom stem off, but keep the leaves intact. After the plant has bloomed and the heads cut off, it's OK to plant the amaryllis in the yard.

"Plant just up to the bulb head and put plenty of mulch around it," Addie said. It is not necessary to wait until the first danger of frost is past to plant the bulb outside.

If an amaryllis is forced for bloom during the fall and winter months, it might not bloom the following spring. However, the plant will bloom again, Addie said. The amaryllis is among the heartiest of bulbs.

The rule of thumb regarding water and fertilizer is applied with the amaryllis: water frequently, but do not soak the bulb as to cause it to rot and fertilize if you decide to re-pot the plant for indoor blooming.

"There are a lot of decorating ideas in magazines using amaryllis," Addie said. When the stalk becomes "floppy," you can use a piece of curly willow to hold it up and give the plant a new look. Or, about two weeks before the plant blooms, plant sweet or rye grass in the bottom of the pot to dress up the display.



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