Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Love Amaryllis

The amaryllis is, I think, the most beautiful and dramatic of our flowering bulbs. We are so fortunate to be able to grow these amazing flowering bulbs in garden beds. If we have the know how.

In colder regions, like lets say New England, amaryllises must be grown in containers, as they would freeze during the winter if planted in the ground.

The amaryllis belongs to the genusHippeastrum, which, oddly enough, translates as "horse star." Those we grow today are mostly hybrids of several species native to South America.

Dormant bulbs are readily available now, and they can become a long-lasting part of your landscape. The bulbs that you purchase now, however, must be handled specially during the winter.

When they are dried and forced into dormancy for shipping purposes, the bulbs are triggered to bloom during the winter, rather than the spring.

If you plant bulbs you purchase now outside into the garden, they may send up their flower stalks this winter, this will kill the bulb. What a waste of such a stately flower.

Growing amaryllis indoors

Even if you intend to plant them in your garden eventually, amaryllis bulbs purchased now should be planted into pots.

Use a good-quality potting soil and plant the bulb with the neck that protrudes from the top of the bulb above the soil surface.

The pot should be large enough so that there is about a 1-inch clearance between the pot rim and the bulb. Clay or plastic pots may be used. Since an amaryllis in bloom can be somewhat top-heavy, clay pots provide a little more stability. You can also buy them pre-planted in pots ready to grow. These bulbs can be of lesser quality if they are not clearly marked as being Dutch bulbs.

Place the pot indoors in a sunny window (the more sun the better) and keep the soil evenly moist.

When the flower stalk begins to emerge, rotate the pot about one-half turn every few days so it will grow straight. Otherwise, it will grow toward the window and look awkward.

If you provide your amaryllis with too little light, the flower stalk will grow excessively tall and may even fall over. Trust me this is heartbreaking.

This time of year, flowering generally occurs about 7 to 10 weeks after planting. Some large bulbs will produce two flower stalks if you are lucky.
Sometime after the flower stalk has emerged, leaves will grow from the top of the bulb. After the flowers have faded, cut the stalk at the point where it emerges from the bulb, but do not cut any foliage.

Keep the plant inside, and continue to provide plenty of light, or the leaves will be weak. Water it regularly when the soil begins to feel dry, but it is not really necessary to fertilize your amaryllis during this time.

When April arrives, or the first complete thaw whichever comes later, it's time to plant your bulbs into the garden. Amaryllis planted in the garden this coming spring will get into their natural cycle and bloom each year in April. Clearly mark where you have planted each bulb as they will have to be dug up each fall.

Care in the landscape

If you are growing amaryllis in your garden now, you know just how carefree they are. They thrive in any reasonably good garden soil, as long as drainage is good.

A spot that receives part sun (about six hours of direct sun and then shade in the afternoon) is the ideal location, but I have seen amaryllis thrive in full sun to part shade.

Amaryllis bulbs are planted with the narrow top of the bulb, or "neck," exposed above the soil surface. Do not plant the bulbs too deep, or flowering will decrease. Bulbs are generally spaced about 8 inches apart and show best in the garden when planted in clumps of three or more. Mulch the bed to provide a place for moisture to be held for the bulbs.

Once planted and established, use a light sprinkling of a general-purpose fertilizer in June and early fall and watering during unusually dry weather is all they need.

Beds should be mulched with an inch or two of pine straw, leaves or other similar material to help reduce weeds and conserve moisture.

Although it is necessary to dig and store amaryllis bulbs in the fall each year, this can be a good thing. Clumps of bulbs can become overcrowded, and fall is a good time to divide them. Amaryllis bulbs produce offsets or small bulbs from their base that grow larger each year. Over a number of years, the crowding of the bulbs may cause a decrease in flowering, due to competition.

Dividing amaryllis

If needed, divide your amaryllis now by lifting the clumps of bulbs carefully, so as not to damage the bulbs in the process. Try to get most of the roots attached to the bulbs. I like to use a garden fork, as it will not cut through the roots.

Separate off the smaller bulbs from the larger bulbs, and put them in two piles. Trim off any yellow or unhealthy foliage, but leave healthy, green foliage attached.

While the bulbs are out of the bed, take the opportunity to turn the soil and then incorporate some compost, rotted manure or peat moss to enrich the soil.

Store all bulbs for the winter in a dry, dark environment with plenty of air flow. I like to make a sinle layer of bulbs at the bottom of a plastic milk crate. Using serveral milk crates if needed. I store mine in the most dry section of an unfinished basement. 

The smaller bulbs can  later be planted into another area where you want amaryllis, or given to friends. Some may bloom next spring or in the next year or two, depending on their size. This is the most common method of propagating amaryllis.

Purchase amaryllis bulbs now to brighten your home during the holiday season, but don't forget that they can become a wonderful part of your garden as well.

One other point; potted amaryllis bulbs in bud or bloom are popular gifts for the holidays. If you think you might be giving some as gifts, keep this column handy and include a copy with each gift amaryllis you give.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Carey's Flowers Thanksgiving Flowers Cheer Those Left Alone At the Holidays

Not every Thanksgiving is delightful. For those left alone on Thanksgiving Day, this holiday can be a turkey – and not the kind that's roasted. Fortunately, there's a way to make this festival of gratitude better for “orphans” – namely, by sending them Thanksgiving flowers.

Not every Thanksgiving is delightful. For those left alone on Thanksgiving Day, this holiday can be a turkey – and not the kind that's roasted. Fortunately, there's a way to make this festival of gratitude better for “orphans” – namely, by sending them Thanksgiving flowers.

“Thanksgiving is traditionally a family holiday,” explains Seth Carey, COO and President of “It can get a bit lonely when you're far from your loved ones. The luckier 'orphans' get invited to friends' celebrations, but that doesn't always happen. For everyone else, we suggest sending Thanksgiving flowers as a way to connect and include them from far away.”

Traditional Thanksgiving flowers come in golds, bronze and yellows, but any flower arrangement will do the trick. Bright yellows and oranges are good colors for bringing cheer, the primary objective when sending to someone stuck alone on Thanksgiving Day. While Carey's Flowers does offer same-day delivery, that doesn't extend to major holidays. Planning ahead is required.

“When you surprise someone with Thanksgiving flowers, you're telling them you're there with them in spirit,” says Mr. Carey. “The blues can quickly overtake a person left alone on the holidays. Anything you can do to help the lonely, to keep in touch, is going to be welcome. If you make the gesture and order the flower arrangement, we can take care of the rest.”

Carey's Flowers has been delivering Thanksgiving flowers as well as taking care of all other flower needs for 99 years now. We can handle whatever it is you need.