Posts Tagged ‘Amaryllis’

If your family and friends decided the best thing to give you was a plant this season, don’t sigh in resignation of having to care for another fussy houseguest.  Most of the plants given at this time of year aren’t picky; they just need a little understanding.

If you need a refresher on caring for your festive foliage, here’s a quick primer on how to have healthy, thriving plants well after the holidays are past.

When the tag says “place in bright indirect light”, what this means:  closely in front of – but not touching – east or west facing windows will give the plant the right light, or one foot away from a south facing window.  For direct light, place it closer to the south window.

 For longest bloom, keep in a cool room, with nighttime temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees; during the day, set the thermostat between 65 to 68.  These cooler temps will keep your plant’s blooms lasting longer.

 Feed with a balanced fertilizer.  Most houseplant food is 20-20-20, but many winter bloomers need a half-strength solution until later in spring, when robust growth starts up again.  Check the tag for feeding instructions before dosing the plant with too much fertilizer.

 Keep your plants healthy with these quick tips:  

What:  Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), a succulent, can be told apart from its cousin, the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), by its rounded “teeth” on the leaves (Thanksgiving cacti have pointed teeth). 

How:  During bloom, keep in bright, indirect light in a cool room and let dry slightly between watering.  If the leaves wrinkle and flowers fall, the plant is too dry or too warm. 

Feed:  Once bloom is finished, fertilize once per month from April through October. 

What:  Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla), the small evergreen with soft foliage.  

How:  These little trees, native to the South Pacific, will not survive our Colorado weather so keep them indoors in bright light and out of direct afternoon sun.  Take care not to let it dry out in our low-humidity homes.  Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, discarding water that collects in the catch pan. 

Feed:  From April through June, use half-strength fertilizer twice per month.  Feed monthly for the rest of the year. 

Tip:  For healthy, bright foliage, mist with water twice per week for healthy, bright foliage.

What:  Christmas pepper (Capsicum spp.).

How:  Moist soil and full sun keeps the foliage lasting, but for fruit that’s glossy and plump, place this plant in a room with cool temperatures.  This annual is a one-season wonder, finished when all the fruit drops off, so compost it when the display is over.

Feed:  None needed.

Tip:  If the oils from handling get into eyes or on skin, this pepper can be irritating.  Choose a visible but out of the way area for this plant to keep kids and pets safe from its sting.

 What:  Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana), the succulent with stems of small, brightly colored flowers held above the leaves.

How:  Place in full sun for the remainder of winter, but when our sun becomes intense in late spring, pull it out of direct sun to a bright location to prevent leaf burning.  Lightly damp to slightly dry soil is preferred by Kalanchoe; take care not to over-water or let it dry completely out.

Feed:  After bloom, fertilize once per month.

What:  Amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.).

How:  Choose a spot with bright, indirect light and keep the soil moist but not soggy.  Deadhead spent flowers soon after they fade, and continue to care for the bulb after blooming is finished – Amaryllis will rebloom year after year.

Feed:  After the shoot appears from the bulb, feed twice per month.

This post previously appeared in the Boulder Camera, Longmont Times-Call, and Loveland Reporter-Herald.

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Amaryllis Samba

Amaryllis Samba, courtesy of White Flower Farm

Want your gifts to be memorable this year, but not break your budget to give them?   Go big and bold by giving  Amaryllis, a bodacious bloomer that’s sure to please. Easy to grow, they’re practically foolproof, having all they need to thrive carried inside the bulb. 

You don’t need an advanced degree or greenhouse to grow them, all you do is give them a pot, some soil and a place to grow to have huge plants as the holidays draw near.  Start them now – they’ll be ready to bloom in eight to ten weeks, just after you give them away.

Available in doubles, pinwheels, or trumpets, there’s an Amaryllis for every decor.  Dutch (Hippeastrum spp.) are the large, trumpet-shaped flowers easily found in local stores.  These tried and true beauties are ideal for beginners who want to try keeping the bulb going year after year. 

 Look for bestseller Apple Blossom, a delicate china-white blushed with pink, or Amigo in deep, rich, carmine.  For an elegant touch, try Samba, with red petals outlined in a pencil-thin trail of white.

Miniature Amaryllis come in smaller bulbs, but produce more blooms. They typically cost more, but if you have a gardener who’s hard to please, the Cybisters (Hippeastrum cybister) have a wispy look with slender, delicate petals and long pollen-holding sepals.  Give them one of these unusual varieties, or go with the over-the-top blossoms of the double bloomers.  

Amaryllis bulbs come loose or in kits with a small pot and a little soil.  When shopping, avoid bulbs with half-grown sprouts; those trying to fight their way out of the box have lost their quality.  Larger bulbs have more flower stalks, and bulb suppliers are required to list bulb size on the label. Bulbs under 10 1/4 inches usually produce only one stalk.

 Amaryllis sprout

  To grow them as gifts:

Soak the roots in lukewarm water for an hour. Select a pot two to three inches wider than the bulb. Fill halfway with potting soil, place the bulb in the center and add a little more soil around the bulb. Plant them so that the top half of the bulb is left above the soil.

Water once and wait for sprouting to begin before watering again, unless the soil completely dries out.  During growth, keep the soil evenly moist by dampening the soil – take care not to pour water onto the bulb itself.

Once the bulbs sprouts, place it in a cool room in bright, indirect light, and hold off on fertilizing. Tie floppy stalks to thin supports slid into the soil next to the bulb to keep them from toppling.

Choose a warmer day for gift giving, since you don’t want the flower to go into shock.  Protect them in a gift bag that is tall enough to close over the top of the flowers, then go from your house to their new home as quickly as possible.

Today’s post can also be found in the Longmont Ledger.  Dear FCC:  suggestions contained in today’s post are provided without compensation or gifts by any of the offering retailers.  I just like these plants.

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