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Q: Why didn't my amaryllis bloom? I kept it growing all year and sort of dried it out in the fall. It is growing leaves but not flowers.

A: Be patient. It may still send up a flower stalk. An amaryllis purchased as a bulb has had its roots cut off. When the bulb is stored to rest with its roots attached, often several leaves will grow before it flowers.

However, the bulb has to be really dry, not sort of. It comes from a two season climate — wet and dry. Growers must mimic the dry season so that the bulb can rest and make new flowers. If yours does not bloom within the next month, try this system next year:

After growing the amaryllis in a sunny window until August, stop watering it. I stop gradually, over a couple of weeks, but I am not sure that a sudden halt would not work as well. By September the leaves will be dying, one at a time. Remove them as they die. When all are dead, store the bulb, still in its pot, in a cool, dark place which does not freeze. Leave the pot for eight weeks or more. No matter how sorry you feel for the poor, dry bulb, do not water it.

By then Christmas time will be approaching. Bring the amaryllis into the house, knock off any loose dirt from around the roots and replace it with compost or fresh potting soil. Put the pot where the amaryllis lived before and begin to water it. If it does not bloom, it is a poor quality bulb that should be recycled.

One note: a few amaryllis species keep their leaves through the dry season. If the leaves on your plant go limp but stay green, you need not cut them off. They will revive after the rest and repotting.

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Q: My amaryllis has finished blooming, but it is making little green shoots around the edge of the bulb. What are they? What should I do with them?

A: Some amaryllis species make new plants from seeds. Some grow new shoots instead, and that is what you are seeing. Do you want more amaryllis of the same color, for yourself or to give away? If so, let one or more of the shoots grow. Next year when you repot the big bulb, little bulbs at its circumference will be big enough to separate. Break or cut them off and put each in its own two- or three-inch pot, remembering that amaryllis roots always like their quarters to be a tight fit. Treat a little bulb like the parent plant, but do not expect it to grow big enough to bloom for at least two more years.

If you do not want to go into the amaryllis nursery business, simply reach down along the side of the bulb and break or cut off the shoots. That will let the big bulb put all its energy into next year's flowers. Do not be surprised if more shoots appear in the future; keep on removing them. Even if you decide to grow a new plant, I recommend removing most of the shoots so that the plant can concentrate its energy on the best one.

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Master gardener Molly Hackett, whose motto is “Never trust a gardener with clean fingernails,” welcomes your questions. Send them to 1384 Meridian Road, Victor, MT 59875; call 961-4614; or email mhackett@centric.net. Please include a garden-related subject line in emails. Hackett writes a twice-monthly Dirty Fingernails opinion piece for the Missoulian.

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