Saturday, November 1, 2014

Christmas Plants: Amaryllis

The amaryllis loves a bright sunny window and will produce its large, trumpet shaped flowers when properly situated. This makes sense as the plant’s native land is South America’s tropical zones. 
If you want blooms for the Christmas season then make sure to purchase a Christmas flowering variety. The Apple Blossom variety is white with soft pink touches. The bulbs are large and will produce up to three stems that have four to six flowers per stem. 
The Apple Blossom will reach a height of approximately 20 inches (50cms) and will flower six to eight weeks after planting. 
The name amaryllis comes from the Greek αμαρυσσω (amarysso) which means "to sparkle". The amaryllis flower is named for a heroine in Virgil's epic poem 'Eclogues'. 
There are two plants that are often confused, the Hippeastrun hybrida (Amaryllis) and the Amaryllis belladonna (Belladonna Lily). This hub refers to the former the Hippeastrum hybrida.
The amaryllis is one of the easiest bulbs to get to bloom: you can bring your plant into bloom either indoors or out.
Beside the large trumpet shaped flowers one of the amaryllis’s main attractions is that it is available in a variety of colours and red, white, pink, salmon and orange. In addition, the amaryllis has a number of striped and multicolored varieties.
When you first bring home your amaryllis remember to place the base and roots of the bulb in lukewarm water for a few hours. If you must wait to plant them store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees F.
The bulb must be planted up to its neck in the potting compost, do not to damage the roots; then firmly press the soil down to set the bulb securely in place after planting.
Amaryllis is a great container plant and needs to be put in a warm place with direct light since heat is necessary for the development of the stems. The ideal temperature is 68 to 70 degrees F.
Until the stem appears you will water sparingly and gradually increase water as the bud and leaves appear. Now the stem will rapidly grow and you will see the flowers burst forth when the stem has reached its mature growth.
When the plants stops flowering you can bring the blooms back by cutting the old flowers from the stem after flowering, and when the stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb.
The leaves will likely begin to yellow in the early fall and that is the time to cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil.
If you plant to store your bulbs, first clean them and then out them in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for at least six weeks.
Indoors over the holiday season the amaryllis adds to the festive atmosphere. They also make great gifts for anyone on your list that enjoys houseplants. They have become almost as popular over the holidays as the poinsettia.

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