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The poinsettia, the Christmas cactus and paperwhites are lovely holiday blooms, but the amaryllis is a real showstopper and commands a spot where it will be noticed.

It blooms from a bulb with showy flowers sometimes reaching the diameter of a teacup saucer or larger.

carolemccraysm.jpg

If you receive an amaryllis as a holiday gift and you do not get to plant it right away, do not fret. I speak from experience and have found pot

ting several of them in January is a pleasant task because I look forward to magnificent blooms throughout the snowy winter days. The backdrop of a window view with the ground ladened in billows of white is a perfect setting for the furled blooms of an amaryllis.

BLOOM AND BULB FACTS

To prolong the time to enjoy an extravagant display of blooms, stagger planting of the bulbs, say one or two week over a three-week period. By staggering your start up times, it’s possible to have blooms through winter and early spring.

The number of flowers and flower stalks produced by an amaryllis depends on the size of the bulb and the cultivar. Normally, atop each stalk, the flowers are united in a group of four, flowering crosswise, two by two.

Bulb prices depend on bulb size and where it was produced. Commercially, the amaryllis is widely cultivated in the Netherlands, South Africa and South America. Depending on the production system and the cultivar, it takes three to five years to obtain bulbs large enough to be offered for sale.

MORE IS BEAUTIFUL

If you have more than one amaryllis, try an easy and spectacular display by planting three to five bulbs, placed shoulder to shoulder in one broad, not deeper container. Plant all the same variety of bulbs in a pot for a more pleasing, abundant effect.

Each bulb will send up one stem, then another, sometimes more, each topped by four to six colorful blossoms. Since the amaryllis tends to be top heavy, planting multiple bulbs can make the plant less tippy, so use a large pot with a broad base.

A RETURN OF BLOOMS

Unlike many forced bulbs, an amaryllis can be brought back to bloom for years, even decades. Try this method to have blooms for season after season:

  • Deadhead the flowers; fertilize with a houseplant fertilizer, and water through mid-July.
  • Store indoors in a dark spot with the pot on its side to prevent it being watered accidentally.
  • In late October, bring the pot out and cut off the dead foliage. Refresh the soil and give the plant a drink of water to start its growing cycle all over again.  

For a rewarding winter treat, forego the leftover holiday chocolates and cookies; instead plant a few amaryllis bulbs. There will be no calories added to your waist, only a feast for your eyes.

Carole McCray is an award-winning garden and lifestyle writer and artist who lives, writes gardens and paints in the scenic Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania. She won the 2003 Garden Writers Award of Achievement for her article on Native Seeds published in The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper. You can read Carole's profile at www.theMulch.com/my-profile/userprofile/laurelmt.

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