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Start Your Amaryllis Indoors Now for Holiday Blooms

Start Your Amaryllis Indoors Now for Holiday Blooms

By Therese Ciesinski, In the Dirt Newsletter editor

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If you find glitter, faux greenery, and plastic decorations too flashy and over the top, and yearn for a simpler, more nature-oriented way of holiday decorating, grow a few amaryllis instead. These big, glossy flowers are a colorful and festive, yet natural, way to decorate. They also make terrific gifts. And now, before Thanksgiving, is the time to plant them in pots and grow them indoors in time for Christmas blooms.

The amaryllis you order online or buy at a store is conditioned to grow immediately,  often before it’s even out of the box or bag. You can buy a pre-planted bulb in a decorative container, but planting one yourself couldn’t be easier.

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An amaryllis likes to be snug in its pot, so choose a container that’s only an inch larger in diameter than the widest part of the bulb. The pot should be heavy, with enough depth for root growth, but not so tall that the weight of the open flowers could tip it over.

Make sure there’s a hole in the bottom of the pot for drainage. Place a piece of newspaper or paper shopping bag over the hole to keep the mix from falling out. Fill the container halfway with pre-moistened (but not soaking wet) potting mix.

Loosen the roots gently and center the bulb in the pot, adding more potting mix up to the bulb’s “shoulders,” so that the top third of the bulb sticks out of the soil. The shoulders and growing tip should not be covered by soil. Firm the mix slightly to anchor the bulb.

Now put the pot in a sunny place. Amaryllis prefers temperatures in the 70’s. It will only take a day or so before the tip of the flower bud begins pushing its “nose” up and out of the bulb. Keep turning the pot so the flower stalk grows straight up and doesn’t lean towards the sun. Keep the soil moist. Once the stalk is about 8 inches tall, insert a stake into the pot (don’t pierce the bulb) and loosely tie the flower stalk to the stake.

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Once the flowers begin to open, move the pot out of the direct sun, or your blooms won’t last long. As the flowers bloom, continue to keep the potting mix moist, but not soaking wet. Often a bulb will send up a second flower stalk. Stake and tie that one like the first.

Once all the flowers on a stalk have faded, cut them off and let the stalk wither naturally. This keeps the plant from setting seed. By this time there should be a few sets of bright green, straplike leaves. So that the bulb can store energy to bloom again next year, put the plant back in a sunny location, and keep it watered.

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