independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Celebrate in style with exuberant amaryllis

NOT many house plants can match the exuberance of an amaryllis in full flower. Native of tropical parts of South America, the flowers are large trumpets, flaring open at the mouth, the petals rolling back and stamens thrusting forward.

It is a celebratory plant and often bought as a festive gift, either as a cut-flower or better still as bulbs.

The bulbs may be already in flower in a pot, or sold as a kit with pot, bulb and compost to pot up, just add water and place in a warm room.

These amaryllis kits are always successful because the flower bud is already in the bulb and a large bulb sometimes has two flowers present.

The most popular colour is bright red, such as the variety 'Red Lion' but there are many other colours, darker shades of red, orange, yellow such as 'Marrakech', pink, white and bi-colours. One of the most popular bi-colours is 'Apple Blossom', which is white with a flush of pink on the petals.

When the bulb is potted up and watered, it should be given just enough water to keep the compost barely moist until growth begins. The flower stem pushes out first and when it has reached full height, the leaves begin to grow. Give the plant good light at all times.

By the time flowering has finished, the leaves will usually be about half their final length. After flowering, the flower stem can be cut away, or allowed to wither back.

The bulb can be the size of a small melon and it shrinks after the effort of making the huge flower stem.

The exhausted bulb will slowly build back to flowering strength again, and the period immediately after flowering is the important time for feeding and watering to ensure flowering the following year.

The plant should be placed in a bright sunny window, watered to keep it nicely moist and given dilute liquid feed every week.

The large leaves, when well fed, soon bulk up the bulb and a flower bud will be developed. Usually by autumn, the bottom leaves begin to turn yellow.

Stop feeding and reduce watering, eventually withholding water altogether when the rest of the leaves yellow and finally wither. The leaves can be removed then and the bulb kept dry in its pot for a few weeks.

To restart the bulb in winter or spring, just water heavily once and keep the pot in a warm place.

Offset bulbs usually appear and can be separated after a year and potted up.

Sunday Independent

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