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Familiar scents of cinnamon and cloves waft through the air. Carols stream from Pandora, and we all gather to toast the season and each other. I love winter until Christmas Present becomes Christmas Past. Then, I’d just as soon move on to spring and rebirth, but that’s simply the gardener in me.
To stave off any post-Christmas gloom, I have a secret, and it’s contained within the bulb my daughter holds in her precious hands. I force indoor bulbs, and some, like amaryllis (Hippeastrum), are easier than baking a pumpkin pie. When you buy a bulb in the store or online, most of the work is already done. Just plant, water and support its stems. Before long, you’ll have weeks of blooms to brighten even the darkest of days.
If you want the look of amaryllis in time for Christmas, plant bulbs in October. However, if you’re on a more relaxed schedule—winter is a long season after all—plant bulbs anytime between October and April. A bright bloom may be just the thing when February and her gray skies come calling.
You can order bulbs from online sources like Longfield Gardens, Brent & Becky’s Bulbs and American Meadows. They stock more unique offerings, but kits of red-blooming amaryllis are often lined up at your local department store. Grab one and take it home.
Here’s how you grow:
Step 1: If you have a kit, follow their instructions. You’ll need to rehydrate the dried material sent with the bulb, but it’s a straightforward process.
Step 2: If you can choose your bulb, go with the largest one you find. A larger bulb means more flowers. You’ll also need a container. This sounds simplistic, but you can’t imagine how many times I’ve bought bulbs online only to have them arrive with nowhere to plant. Before your amaryllis comes, choose a pot not much bigger or deeper than the bulb. Amaryllis like their quarters tight.
Step 3: Soil. Choose a good quality potting soil, or make your own. I just use a light potting soil from my local nursery. Don’t plant too deep. I place soil halfway up the sides of the bulb where the top still sticks up as shown in the photo below.
Step 4: Water around the bulb and don’t splash water on top of it. Water sparingly until the bulb begins to grow. Even then, keep things on the dry and cool side. Amaryllis don’t like overheated houses or overwatered roots.
Step 5: Build in some support as shown in this photo from Colorblends. Either make a support with twigs or bamboo, or use glass containers with tall sides. I just use twigs and twine for my support, but I’m old school like that.
Step 6: Set the bulb near a window with bright light. You won’t believe how fast it will grow. Turn the pot every couple of days so that your amaryllis grows straight, tall and lovely.
Once the bulb stops blooming, cut off any faded flower stems. You can also overwinter your bulb after flowers fade. If you want your amaryllis to bloom again, follow these instructions from the United States National Arboretum.
Growing plants indoors over the winter months makes spring seem near even when holiday feasting ends. Plants offer increased oxygen in closed environments, and they connect us to the outdoors. All good things. The beauty of amaryllis is only a click away. Let’s get growing, shall we?