Following a Festive Tradition

One of my favourite traditions of the holiday season is planting containers of amaryllis bulbs. The amaryllis is a beautiful and fascinating bulb. Among the easiest of bulbs to grow indoors, the amaryllis is enjoyed for the incredible trumpet-shaped flowers in an array of festive colours.

The amaryllis flower grows on tall stems surrounded by green arched branches. With impressive trumpet-shaped flowers, the amaryllis flowers in colours ranging from shades of white and apple-blossom pink, to orange and rich scarlet red. Varieties may be solid in colour, multicoloured or pinstriped.

Today’s cultivars have stocks that range from 12 to 24 inches tall, each stock producing four to six flowers.

When purchasing an amaryllis, look for bulbs that are healthy in shape and form. Be careful of pre-packaged kits that may have been frozen or damaged during transportation. Prior to planting, place the base and roots of the bulb in lukewarm water for a few hours. If you are not planting the bulbs right away, store the bulbs at a cool temperature between 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.

Once the flowering period has finished, the amaryllis can be placed into dormancy and encouraged to re-flower. Cut back the flowers from the stem. When the stem starts to wilt, prune it back to the top of the bulb. Continue to water and fertilize for five to six months. Allow the leaves to fully develop and grow.

When the leaves begin to yellow (which normally occurs in early fall), cut the leaves back to about two to four inches from the top of the bulb. Remove the bulb from the soil. Clean the bulb and place it in a cool, dark place for a minimum of six weeks (a refrigerator is an ideal place as long as the bulbs are stored away from apples or fruits that may cause sterilization of the bulb). Following this dormancy period, the amaryllis bulb is ready to be planted.

For an enjoyable pre-Christmas project, why not try growing pots of amaryllis in your home? With the abundant cluster of bell-shaped flowers, this uniquely beautiful holiday plant is a feast for the eyes during winter months.

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