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--- Anne K Moore August 28, 2009 ---
Photos by Anne K Moore ---

With the heat of August still upon us, Christmas is far from our minds.  Still, it is not too soon to be thinking about one aspect of December; the flowers you saved from last year.  September is the month to get your holdovers from Christmases past ready to bloom on demand.

If you have planted your amaryllis bulbs in the ground, September is the time to dig them up and pot them.  Use small pots that contain them tightly.  Only allow about an inch between the bulb and the pot.  Amaryllis love tight quarters.  Plant the bulb with a minimum of one third still out of the ground.  One-half of the bulb above ground is even better.  Bring them indoors to a protected area and don't water them.  If the amaryllis are already summering in pots outdoors, bring them inside to a protected area and withhold water. 

In both cases, let them rest by letting them go dry until November.  Cut off the foliage after it wilts, being careful not to nick any emerging flower bud. 

Now is a good time to add a sturdy stake next to the bulb.  Even though the stalks are thick, the flower heads are so heavy they often lean and break.

Wake them up in November with water, warmth, and light.  Adding a little houseplant fertilizer won't hurt.  Water well to wet the soil.  Then let them almost dry out before you water them again.  Once the flower bud is growing, keep the soil moist by carefully pouring the water alongside the bulb.  If you water the bulb itself, you can cause crown rot.  If the top rots, no flowers will push up.  The bulb will be done for.

Flower buds usually grow before the leaves.  Once the bud is showing in the top of the bulb, move the pot to a sunny window.  Turn the pot every day to keep the flower stalk straight.  Secure it loosely to the stake before the flowers open.

Once the blossoms start to open, you can move the plant to an area out of the sun.  Amaryllis enjoy the heat in our indoor rooms.  Just do not put them near a heat vent where drying air will bathe them.  With a bit of care, spectacular blooms will reward you by December.

The flowers at the top of the stalk will open one by one.  They will also start to fade the same way.  As the flowers wilt, snip them off carefully at their base, leaving the fresh flowers on the stalk.  After the trumpet flowers have all been removed, carefully cut the flower stalk to within an inch of the bulb.  You might be rewarded with another flower stalk. 

After all of the flowers have arrived and been removed, expect the leaves to appear.  At this stage in their life, the amaryllis plants need all the light you can give them along with plenty of water and fertilizer. 

Expect to repot amaryllis every two years.  The repotting is best done after they have flowered, from December on.  You might be lucky enough to find little offsets at the base of your bulb.  You can plant these little bulbs in four-inch pots.  They should be ready to flower in a couple of years.

If you haven't added these spectacular blossoms to your decor, look for them in beautiful colors of red, white, pink, salmon, and bicolors to go with any indoor scheme.  They even come in doubles.  They will be available in stores nearer the holidays.  Although you can find them in many price ranges, the biggest bulbs give the biggest blooms.  With big bulbs, you will also often get more than one flower stalk, extending the amaryllis' indoor flowering range.  They are impressive in any setting and they are easy.

In future articles look for poinsettia and Christmas cactus care.

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