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Weekend Life

Learning to Grow: Amaryllis are available in wide array of colors

An amaryllis can brighten winter days with its exotic blooms.
An amaryllis can brighten winter days with its exotic blooms.

After we finish our garden chores and head indoors for the winter, we long for a way to satisfy our green thumbs. Mine scratch their proverbial gardening itch by growing amaryllis that brighten winter days with their magnificent, exotic blooms.

Amaryllis planting, care
1. Start by choosing a top-size bulb. When it comes to bulbs, size really does matter. Smaller amaryllis bulbs may cost less, but the larger the bulb the more flowers are contained within.
2. It is very easy to grow amaryllis. Plant one of these voluptuous bulbs in a pot just slightly larger than the bulb – a couple of inches larger in diameter than the bulb.
3. Gently press the soil down around the bulb so that the shoulders and neck of the bulb are visible.
 4. Water it lightly and place the pot in a sunny window and wait. When growth begins, water often enough to keep the soil barely moist. Six to eight weeks after you plant the bulb, you will be rewarded with huge blooms that explode from one to two-foot stems. For continuous bloom all winter long, plant bulbs at two-week intervals.
 5. Once the flowers open, move the pot away from the sunny window into a spot with indirect light to keep blooms from fading.
After-blooming care           
1. When the last flower has faded on a stem, cut it near the top of the bulb.
2. When all stems have been cut back, move the container to the sunniest spot available to encourage as much leaf growth as possible.
3. Fertilize once a month and never let the soil dry out completely.
4. After the danger of frost has passed in spring, move your amaryllis outside. The foliage will keep on growing all summer. Continue to fertilize. 
5. When leaves begin to yellow in fall, cut back foliage to about two inches from the top of the bulb.
6. Be sure to bring it back inside before the first frost. Remove soil from the bulb, and let it “rest” in a cool, dark place for two months.
7. Repot the bulb into a larger pot and get ready for a repeat performance.   

Amaryllis varieties
Amaryllis are available in a wide array of colors from deep velvety red to satiny pink and orange to pure white. Bi-colors are also available.

The glistening, pure white flowers of Mount Blanc are a holiday classic. Christmas Gift is another gorgeous white variety. Plant either in a bright red pot – stunning!

The blooms of Pink Impression are bright pink giving way to white toward their throats. Apple Blossom has softer pink petals.

 If you want a bi-color flower, choose Amorice with white petals subtly striped with red. Or if you want something even flashier, try Dancing Queen.

Queen of the Night has deep, dark velvety red blooms; Red Lion is bright red; and the flowers of Double Dragon are deep red with an extra layer of petals. Plant any of these in a black glazed pot – so glamorous!

• Diana Stoll is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information.

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