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Amaryllis

There are few things lovelier than an amaryllis in full bloom. Here's what to do to make sure yours knocks your socks off. Buy the largest size bulb for the variety. Larger bulbs mean bigger -- and more -- flowers. Keep in mind that miniature and double-flowered varieties usually have smaller sized bulbs. Make sure your bulb has the same firmness and feel of a good onion.

Pot the bulb with one to one and a half inches of soil surrounding and with the top third of the bulb exposed. Water well, then let dry almost completely
before watering again. Amaryllis stems will lean strongly towards the light so place the potted bulb in a sunny window and give the pot a quarter turn every few days to keep the stem straight.

Plan on your amaryllis taking from five to eight weeks to bloom, although you can control, to some extent, how fast your amaryllis will bloom with temperature. If your bulb is not moving fast enough, try watering with lukewarm (not hot) water and placing in a warm room. If your bulb is moving
too fast, then simply place in a cooler room. These measures can add or subtract a week or so to the total blooming time.

With proper care, your amaryllis will delight both you and your friends this winter. To bloom this beautiful giant from year to year, after your amaryllis finishes blooming, remove the spent flower stalks but allow any leaves that may have begun to sprout to remain. Keep the plant watered and in a sunny window and begin application of a good balanced houseplant fertilizer according to the directions on the package.

When warm weather arrives, usually May 1 here in hardiness zone 7, you can move the pot outside for the summer, remembering to keep the plant watered and fed. If you know you’re going to forget to feed it once it’s outdoors, a slow release fertilizer can be used. Just before the first frost, usually mid to end October here, bring your plant inside, cut the leaves all the way back, leaving a one inch stubble and allow the pot to go dry all the way to the bottom.

Once the pot is bone dry, store the bulb in the pot in a cool, dark, dry place for 8 to 10 weeks. An attic, basement, or attached garage is good as long as they don’t get below freezing. Since some varieties will flower more quickly
than others, check on the bulb after eight weeks. If the tip of a fat new flower shoot is beginning to show, then move the bulb out to a warm sunny window. Otherwise leave it to rest another two. The normal blooming time for an amaryllis (after the first year) is somewhere between February and May.

To bloom your bulb by Christmas, you need to bring the bulb into dormancy by the end of August. Finding a cool, dark, and dry place then can be difficult because attics, basements and attached garages are still hot from summer heat. An unused refrigerator is your best bet.