Holiday plants can be easy, inexpensive fun for gardeners

Published Dec 3, 2017 at 9:00am

It’s that time of year for giving and receiving holiday plants!

The Amaryllis is a relatively inexpensive and easy holiday plant to grow. I enjoy watching it grow from a bulb into colorful blooms within a few weeks. They certainly provide a tropical contrast on a blustery fall or winter day!

Amaryllis is a monotypic (consisting of only one species) genus of flowering plants containing the Belladonna Lily, popularly known as the Amaryllis belladonna lily. Amaryllis is a native of South and Central America and the Caribbean. The Hippeastrum genus of flowering bulb type plants is erroneously named as the Amaryllis or Christmas Amaryllis.

Amaryllis belongs to a group of lily-like plants that grow from bulbs. The bulbs are large as are the flowers, which look like trumpets emerging from a tall, slender-but-sturdy stalk. There are usually 4 flowers on a spike, and they come in solid colors of white, pink, red or variegated. The leaves are tall and sword-like, and often do not emerge until after the plant has bloomed.

In autumn, local stores start selling pre-potted amaryllis bulbs in a box with instructions. Local florists may carry them already in bud in decorative pots. Also members of the Mohawk Valley Growers http://mohawkvalleygrowers.org/ may carry Amaryllis bulbs. Or you can search catalogs on-line for specific varieties/colors.

• Growing Tips: Leave the top third of the bulb above the soil. Water daily. Turn the pot daily so that the stem grows straight. You may need to provide support to the stem if the blooms get too heavy.

• After-Flowering. After the amaryllis has stopped flowering, it can be made to flower again. Cut the old flowers from the bottom of the stem, and when the stem starts to sag and begin to yellow, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil. 

• Leaf Growth and Development. Continue to water and fertilize as normal all summer or for at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early fall, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil.

• Bulb Storage. Clean the bulb and place it in a cool (40-50 degrees F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for at least 6 weeks. Caution: Do not store amaryllis bulbs in a refrigerator that contains apples, this will sterilize the bulbs. Store the bulbs for a minimum of 6 weeks. 

• Plant Again. After 6 weeks you may remove bulbs whenever you would like to plant them. Plant bulbs 8 weeks before you would like them to bloom.

For information, visit Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County’s website at www.cconeida.com or call the Horticulture Hot Line at 315-736-339 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener Volunteer on Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.