Well, here it is, the end of January, and the Amaryllis are just now bursting into bloom in our dining room! You're probably familiar with these striking blooms, since they appear most often in the big box stores just before the holiday season, packaged as inexpensive gifts. Though they're heavily marketed as a Christmas flower, they rarely seem to bloom on demand for the holidays unless you really get a head start on them. I found these at Lowe's in early December, and though I started them right away, they are just now coming into their own, which is fine by me, with the dreary, snowy and cold days of January coming to an end ... And they really add a lot of delicious red punch to any room where you might choose to grow them, provided you can give them a fair amount of sun (these are by the north window shelf in our house), ample water and a reasonable temperature (this room stays at about 60 degrees in winter).
If you've never grown Amaryllis, or if you're just plain intimidated by growing bulbs indoors, let me assure you that they are probably the easiest bulb you could ever dream of forcing into bloom! Unlike spring bulbs, which require an extended period of cold and darkness before blooming, Amaryllis can be brought into bloom several times a year if you play your cards right! The only real "trick" you need to master is to give them a rest for 3-4 months in a dark place (such as in a paper bag in the basement or closet) before bringing them into the light again and replanting them ... Just let them bloom their hearts out as long as they want, then remove the spent blooms and stalk ... then allow them to retain their leaves for at least a month or two (or as long as they look green and healthy) to let them store up food and energy for the next cycle of blooms. When the leaves start to look a bit on the wane, gradually decrease the water until they begin to die back. Eventually you'll want to just plain stop watering them ... I know it seems cruel, but all Amaryllis (whether winter hardy or not) require this particular step at the end of their bloom season. When the leaves dry up, simply cut them back to the top of the bulb base, remove the bulb from the potting medium and place it in a box or paper bag and put it in a dark, dry place ... and forget about them for the next 3-4 months!
Once they've completed their resting period, take them back out and repot them in the medium of your choice (I generally use peat moss), making sure that the top of the bulb is above the soil level. Give them a good watering, put them in a sunny window and within a week or so, you'll see the new leaves emerge ... and within about 5-6 weeks, you should have another glorious cycle of blooms burst forth! As the bulbs age and get larger, you'll often find that they may put up more than one bloom stalk per season, so you can get doubly rewarded if you treat them right .... In our experience, we've found that we can keep the bulbs for at least 3-4 years until they finally peter out and die. But for the meager investment you'll need to put into growing them (I usually find bulbs for $5 or less!), they give a lot more back than they require from you ... and once they start blooming, you can be virtually guaranteed a good 3-4 weeks of glorious flowers! Amaryllis come in a variety of colors, but we prefer the brilliant red varieties. (And yes, Olivia, they do come in pink variants, though we've never grown those.)
I'll probably continue taking more pictures of these over the coming weeks, so I can follow their progress ... at present we have 4 separate bulbs going in the dining room, so we're hoping we have flowers right up until March!
So, stop back for more views as the weeks pass ... even though we're still in the dead of winter, there are plants of interest still to come around our house. The hibiscus is currently in a resting phase, but is starting to put on more buds, so there should be some of those to come soon ... and with any luck, I'll have the long-promisid shots of the holly and berries up sometime!